Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Music - Part 21 - Cake





I’ve always been a big fan of cake (Ginger, Battenberg, Chocolate Fudge).  A few years ago, my wife introduced me to another Cake – American jingly jangly group with quirky songs that can’t stop your feet tapping.  When I saw a cd compilation of ‘one of the most underrated groups of the early 90s’, I couldn’t wait.

Initially, I was a tad disappointed.  This wasn’t the Cake I was expecting (henceforth called American Pie).  This was English Cake (Victoria Sponge, if you like), and, I’d never heard of them.  On first play, it was ok.  Decent enough vocals and nice rhythms although slightly lacking in chorus.  There followed a live cd too.

Cake are/were from Bristol and this cd contains every studio track they ever recorded.  Formed in 1992, they performed live many times, but, finally split in December 1995 without ever securing a record deal.  It’s a real shame, as on second listen, things clicked into place for me.

Track 1, Indigo Eyes is a cracker.  The opening line,  “It’s just a broken down dream” being somewhat ironic.  It’s a big slice (pun intended) of early 90s guitar pop, one that you feel you’ve heard before, one that you’re really familiar with.  There’s no reason why this couldn’t have been a hit, and, it’s a mystery why no record company picked up on it.  I can only assume the ones that Cake approached were either deaf or stupid.  Or both.

                    


Next we go to X Ray Ears. Deb’s vocals are good, reaching upwards, soaring. If there’s one thing the tracks lack however, it’s a decent production. That said however, the songs are so well constructed that you soon start to see through that fact. Two and a half minutes of an incredibly catchy song. 

Falling is much the same. This album listens more like a Best Of than a complete discography. A guitar break straight from the soul. Feel it, I did. You just can’t beat a simple, well crafted song, and, it seems that Cake mastered the art.

There’s also a live cd with the package. Initially I thought it was a waste of time. The sound is awful and I really thought you ‘had to be there’ to appreciate it. Again, on second listen, if you can see past the sound quality, there are delightful songs in there. One I Love in particular, with its epic guitar solo included in a quite superb 8 minutes. From the sublime to the ridiculous as a cover version of No Limits then ensues. To be fair this really isn’t a wise choice, but, after several pints of Bedminster’s finest ale, probably nobody would have cared less. 

This album is great testament to yet another of those lost groups of the 90s, and, a fitting tribute to what could have been. Now pass me another slice of Victoria Sponge.

Published on Louder Than War 30/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/cake-cake-album-review/

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Music - Part 20 - Swans Way




I first heard this album on its release, ahem, 28 years ago.  I don’t think I’ve heard it since, and, that’s a huge shame.

Swans Way appeared in an alleged new wave of jazz artists spear-headed by Sade and lesser successfully by the wonderful Carmel and Blue Rondo.  Trying to fit them into the ‘jazz’ category was always wrong, they had many influences but they sounded like, well, Swans Way.

The follow-up to their debut single, Theme From The Balcony (represented in its 12” version on this album), came in the shape of Soul Train which has always been one of my favourite all time tracks.  It’s a masterpiece in songwriting, slow, quick, slow, angst, passion and relief it sounds as fresh as it did in 1984, and, there lays the secret of this album – Swans Way were clearly very ahead of their time.  The Fugitive Time was a critical success but a huge disappointment commercially.

For the young and/or uninitiated, Swan Way were a trio – Robert Shaw (vocals), Rick Jones (double bass), and, Maggie De Monde (percussion and vocals).  The blokes were slick in their freshly made and pressed suits, and, their quiffs were something to behold.  Maggie had an air of mystery and added a slightly Parisian feel to the sound of the group.

Hailing from Birmingham, they released one single on Exit International before being snapped up by Phonogram who either saw their vision or wanted to recoup some of their investment by releasing five singles from the album.  That said, they are all worthy of such release.

Keeping It Strong could even have been single number 6.  Powerful trumpet and saxophone over a strong chorus – it moments it could almost have appeared from ABCs repertoire circa The Lexicon Of Love (and look at how successful that was!).  Backed by violin, viola and cello, as is much of the album, this was a huge hit screaming to get out.  Possibly.

Not only does Club Secrets boast the line ‘the fugitive kind’, but it also claims “I’ve got you” – quite ironic as the song grips you and won’t let go.  The album has clearly been remastered and sounds superb for it.  Maggie’s dreamlike vocals are the start to In Trance, and, Robert’s sultry tones soon follow.  He had quite a vocal range – you can feel the power and commitment in every breath, living and breathing every note of the song.  Painting a picture in your mind.  Stunning.

You know when you wake up in a morning with a song in your head?  For the past week it’s been Je Jouie.  It won’t go away.  I’m becoming obsessed.  The strings remind me of a train gathering pace slowly, the production on this track isn’t the best, but, that’s overshadowed by the performance of the song.  Sounding as though it could appear in a film soundtrack which is rather fitting as, if Swans Way were ever to write a Bond theme, it would have been The Blade.  There’s a full brass section on here, something that they took with them for live appearances, and, I’m sure John Barry would have been proud of this track.  With a 60s styled vocal backing I can see Daniel Craig jumping across buildings and along scaffold with this playing in the background.

                    



The first of two more of the albums singles is The Anchor.  Really, why weren’t these songs hits?  A very commercial singalong chorus.  “I shouldn’t cry for him, but it’s not easy to stop the tears”.  A Martin Fry esque vocal at times.  It’s interesting to see that the album also has three producers – John L Walters, Mark Freegard and Mike Thorne, which gives a varied appeal to the album.  I’m pretty sure that Mike worked with Marc Almond, and, his treatment of When We The Wild calls makes it an anthemic song.  You could quite easily imagine a crowd singing along to this pacey number at a packed arena or festival. 

Stay brings the speed right back down.  No additional musicians on this track – just double bass and percussion.  It’s a plea, and you can feel the pain and emotional in every sinew of Shaw’s body.  His voice was very powerful – a really emotive singer who moves you with every sound.

The final track (of the original album) is Illuminations.  Again a slower number, but, one that keeps going around in your head.  Maggie’s angelesque vocals are here again.  It’s a sexy song.  “Feeling total pleasure”.  Quite.

There are also a few additional tracks on the album in extended and 12” versions which really do add to the album.  Soul Train in particular is like a completely different track for the first three and a half minutes.  If I was to be super critical, I’d have loved to have seen their cover of Gloomy Sunday on here – the b-side of Soul Train was marvellous.   I was also slightly disappointed that the promise of a live version of Gershwin’s Summertime also seems to have been lost.

All in all?  A classic.   If only it had been released three decades later, it may have received far more commercial success.  I’d like to think that this re-release would do that, but, we live in a harsh world.

Buy this album, and, savour something you may well have missed out on.


Published on Louder Than War 26/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/swans-way/

Friday, 26 October 2012

Music - Part 19 - Cling




Formed in 2006, Cling are Susi Lavender and Gerald Patient.  I came across them on MySpace at the time, and, have followed their moves ever since.   love their enthusiasm and their friendliness.  Giving their music away to get the recognition that is now following them around more and more with every passing day.

Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength.  In one form or another, they’ve released over 30 tracks, initially ambient but moving into dubstep of late.  Their early tracks were swirling atmospheric slabs of gorgeousness, Gerald’s precise backing with Susi’s angelesque tones creating tracks that were simply something else.

In June 2010, their single Beyond Your Dreams clocked up almost 50,000 views on YouTube – quite remarkable.

Their new tune is a cracker, and like the 2012 mixes of Deeper Meaning and Beyond Your Dreams, it’s a harder, fuller sound this time round.  The apocalyptical tale, embeds itself in your head and you really can’t let it go.  “Too late for regrets, let’s just accept our fate”.  It starts atmospherically and soon launches into a cosmic trap that you can’t help but fall into.

They really do make songs that won’t let go of you – therefore, an apt name for a group.

Give The End a listen and tell me you don’t play it a second time.





Published on Louder Than War 22/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/cling-the-end-review/

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Music - Part 18 - Bob Marley



I’m always quite dubious of posthumous releases.  They’re usually come cobbled together attempt at money making that would have the artist turning in his grave.  Despite some reservations, I was intrigued enough to give this a spin as the thought of some good Marley tunes dubbed out was quite a prospect.

In Dub Vol 1 isn’t quite a new release, it was originally released in 2010 as a digital only package.  There are some new versions here though added to some older stuff.  The older ones have appeared on single b-sides in the past and are mainly instrumentals with some cute dubbing going on.

In fact, the majority of the album has very little Marley vocal.  This isn’t particularly a bad thing (I mean that in a good way), as it allows the dub element to come through.  The tracks have clearly been remastered which does add to the overall sound.

Highlights of the album of the quite brilliant Lively Up Your Dub and One Love/People Get Ready Dub – great dubbing, high-hats and horns, very enjoyable as is the album as a whole.  Forever Loving Jah Dub is just sumptuous and well worth the price of the album alone.



 Is This Love Dub is far too busy, and, for a newcomer to dub, may well be off-putting.  More silly, pointless echoes than dub.  Unfortunately, Three Little Birds Dub is basically an instrumental and Jamming Version is exactly as its title suggests.  The album might have benefited from not including these tracks at all and possibly having some longer versions as  few of them get beyond 3 or 4 minutes, which makes the album less than 40 minutes, but, the collection is endearing enough to warrant several listens. 

There’s very little information as to who has done the newer remixes, further investigation would seem to indicate that Scientist is the chap in question, with maybe Marley and Familyman Barrett doing the older ones.  A couple of the tracks have the quickest fade-outs I’ve ever heard, and, in a couple of cases are pretty frustrating.

The title of the album suggests that there will be more volumes to come and I’d love to see some new stuff mixed by a collection of people – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Adrian Sherwood spring to mind.

Overall, it’s a great album and well worth a listen, far better than the rubbish that was included as  second cd with Legend, and something I think that the great man would approve of.

Published on Louder Than War 20/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/bob-marley-in-dub-vol-1-album-review/

Music - Part 17 - Interview with Princess Chelsea





Now and again, a truly innovative album comes along and makes a huge impression on you.   I had that experience with Lil’ Golden Book, the debut album from Princess Chelsea - (see my earlier review here or Louder Than War here )

Formerly of Teen Wolf and The Brunettes, Chelsea Nikkel has created a magical album which has had many rave reviews, and, if there’s any justice in this World, will make her a household-name. 


When the opportunity came to throw a few questions at her, I naturally jumped at the chance:


Do I call you Princess or Chelsea?

My friends call me both.

How is the music scene in New Zealand? Anyone we should be looking out for?

There is always a wonderful undercurrent of music being made by New Zealanders who have no intention of comprising their art to ‘get famous’. Active musicians I enjoy at the moment are The Eversons, Wilberforces, Las Tetas, No Aloha, Leno Lovecraft, Vassafor, Street Chant, Golden Axe and most things Lil’ Chief Records releases.

Lil’ Golden Book has received good reviews in the British media - what sort of public reception do you expect to the album?

I expect it to be mixed, and when it is appreciated it could be on a few different levels.  It seems as though some people who would not normally listen to my music are being exposed to it through the viral interest in the Cigarette Duet music video. The comments underneath that video I like the most are the ones along the lines of ‘this is the weirdest music I have ever heard... but I like it... ”. The very thought that I could be somehow responsible for introducing an unsuspecting member of the public to ‘weird’ music is heart-warming.

The album is certainly very original, do you mind that the media called it ‘strange’ or ‘freaky’ ?

Not at all - I quite agree.



Any plans to come to the UK to tour? I’d like front row tickets please.

I recently played a few shows in the UK and I am planning to return in Summer 2013.

What music are you listening to at the moment? Favourite song? Favourite album?

I have been listening to a bunch of music from the early 1930s, Al Bowlly and dance bands like Lew Stone and his band & Roy Fox and his band.

Boa Constrictors is a project by a very young Joe Astle from LA, who frankly I believe to be a genius. My favourite track by him at the moment is ‘I didn’t know that I liked you til you ignored me’ from his self released album ‘Anomic’ available on Bandcamp for free.



He writes and records music in his parents garage and is like a young Daniel Johnston / Brian Wilson hybrid who fell asleep for forty years while listening to Pavement’s ‘Crooked Rain’ album. Due to his interesting and somewhat isolated background I believe him to be completely uncontrived, which makes his music resonate even more with me.

For those of us that don’t know, what is a Lil’ Golden Book?

Little Golden Books are a series of childrens books that started in the 1940s and are still being released today. They have a distinctive and timeless design that hasn’t changed much - you can identify them by their tell-tale golden spine.  I called my album Lil’ Golden Book instead of Little Golden Book to hopefully prevent myself from getting sued but also to pay homage to my New Zealand label Lil’ Chief.

Your lyrics, whilst simple, are engaging – what things influence your writing?

I suppose I don’t feel the need to prove I know big words.  Like others my writing is certainly influenced by my life experiences and the private and public figures I admire. I am a fan of ‘double-barrelled’ messages however I am not a fan of pretension. My favourite lyricists and writers keep it simple, direct and classy.

You’re classically trained on the piano, does that help in the writing of your songs?

Yes certainly, I suppose I feel very comfortable on a piano and I almost always use one to begin my compositions.

I’m coming over for a meal, what would you cook me?

I’d give you 12 raw oysters from Tio Point and a glass of Kumeu River Chardonnay.

How’s Winston?

Winston is pretty good, he turned 13 recently and for his birthday I bought him some catnip and a packet of Friskies Party Mix Beachside crunch.




There is a real fairy tale/Merry-go-round/Wonderland feel to the album – what’s the
reason behind that?

To be honest I don’t plan how my music is going to sound - it just ends up that way.  A lot of songs I write and arrange as I go so it’s all quite accidental.

The album is best listened to as a whole, rather than individual tracks. How important was it to have a ‘theme’ throughout the album?

I’m a fan of the album format and it was important to me to make a cohesive piece.  In saying that I also didn’t want ‘filler‘ and I think each song could stand on its own although perhaps not make as much sense that way. I am hoping to achieve a more cohesive message with my next album.

God Save The Queen or God Defend New Zealand?

Paul McCartney Please Come To New Zealand!

Any ideas for themes for the future?

I’m working on ideas concerning the internet and the social depression I believe it is causing. I’d say it will be a very sad album indeed.

The album tells of growing up in New Zealand – are there any things you’d change?

No, I was reminded of this when watching Back To The Future recently. Changing your past is a silly idea and would change your present self. I like my present self!

If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be, and why?

I am quite interested in the American presidential election at the moment so for me Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Ronald Reagan and President Barrack Obama would make for interesting dinner conversation. If I could get a bonus Sarah Palin that would be nice too.

What do you think of British music?

I think Brits should be very proud of their musical legacy. I used to think that it didn’t matter where a musician was from, but have come to realise that’s not true at all. Music is part of what makes up the culture and identity of a country and where a person is from and the society they live in is part of what makes them who they are and therefore their art what it is. Excessive ‘hyping’ of musicians in Britain and in other countries concerns me.

Coldplay. Discuss.

That Yellow song was pretty good.

What does the future hold for you – how do you follow up such a talked-about debut?

I am nervous about it. I’m working on my second album at the moment and it will be a concept piece like the first, however I’m hoping to say more with the next release (but still with few syllables). I am going to collaborate with other songwriters I admire this time around so some of the characters who appear on the next album will not be my creation.

My 3 year old Daughter loves ‘Monkey Eats Bananas’, just thought you’d like to know.

I’ve been told that by a few parents - and what a compliment as children have such pure and unadulterated opinions.

We have lots of 80s artistes reforming and touring in the UK, who would you like to get back together and come and play in your Living Room?

Wings although sadly not possible.

Describe a typical day for Chelsea Nikkel.

I wake up to the sound of Winston wailing in my bathroom. He likes to wail there as the natural reverb makes his cries sound more desperate than if they were coming from other rooms in the house. He is a very intelligent cat. After stumbling out of bed I open a can of Fancy Feast Tuna and Whole Prawns in Seafood Broth and tenderly dump it on the porcelain platter he likes to eat from.  As a self - managed artist I generally have a lot of ‘admin’ to take care of so will often spend the first hours of my morning ‘admining’ while at the same time trying to think of funny tweets I could write to show off how cool my personality is. To be honest I am getting rather sick of self-management as it is quite time consuming so any big time managers reading this hit me up on Facebook. I am working on my second album so I will spend as much time as I can every day writing lyrical ideas, and recording in my lounge. It’s quite common I’ll have a Bourbon old fashioned at my side while doing this although I am making a real effort lately to not drink so much. I work, cook and clean like most people. At some point in the day I’ll usually search EBay for vintage Chanel items. Every second day I pump iron at the gym as I believe a healthy body helps keep a healthy mind.

Prince Harry is single, maybe he’d like a copy of the album?

Harry if you are reading this and you’d like a copy please DM me on Twitter.

Is Yulia a real person? If so, how is she about your feelings?

Yes, Yulia is a singer from New Zealand. Around the time I wrote the song there was a lot of national media coverage about her engagement to her manager Glynn who was an older man. While amusing, I found the coverage and public response bizarre and decided to write a song from the point of view of the New Zealand consciousness. I’m not sure what she thinks about the song or if she’s even heard it.

I’m sorry that The Script found their way to New Zealand, can you forgive us?

I have no idea what The Script is, I guess I should keep it that way!




Published on Louder Than War 17/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/princess-chelsea-inteview/




Music - Part 16 - Watcha Clan





Marseille based Watcha Clan have been quiet since the release of their ‘Radio Babel’ album last year.  They’re now back with a series of three digital only EPs, the first of which is ‘We Are One’.

Lead vocalist, Sista K is from Marseille and is backed by fellow band members from France, Corsica and Algeria.  Their sound brings together European and Middle Eastern sounds very successfully.

The EP contains five mixes of the title song.  This often scares me and seems like a bit of a cop out, but, in this case, the mixes are so different that it’s almost like listening to five different tracks.

We Are One is a catchy little thing, reminding me in parts of Where Is The Love by Black Eyed Peas.  One of those songs that you just can’t get out of your head.  The message of the song is along similar lines too – tolerance, no hate, no borders – but, it does have a huge appeal.

The first mix, by 4Hero, combines Trip-hop, Jungle and pop with hints of folk music too.  Marc Mac has taken the original version and filled it out to make it a great opener.



There’s a guitar riff on the Danochilango Remix that gives it a real bhangra and overall Asian feel – quite a departure from the first mix.

A return to Trip-hop and Jungle for the Hugo Kant Remix, before we’re treated to a Drum and Bass version thanks to MC Sufferah.  The pounding drum is brilliant and not to be missed.   There are impressive differences and additions to the mixes which stops them from being repetitive and boring.

The final version, and for me the best, comes in the shape of the Superpendejos Remix.  The track is turned into a great reggae piece embracing the songs message of connection and oneness.

All in all, an excellent EP.  In fact, the remixes differed so much that I played it three times in a row!  I for one will be awaiting their next two EPs with relish.


Published on Louder Than War 19/10/12 - http://tiny.cc/dbfhmw

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Photos - Tatton


We went to Tatton Park t'other day.

I took some photo's.

They're here:




























Thursday, 11 October 2012

Music - Part 15 - Robert Soko




This is a strange, if slightly endearing animal.

According to the Release Sheet, Robert Soko is the inventor of the BalkanBeats genre.  What is it?  Well, as far as I can establish, it’s the remixing of Balkan dancetracks of the moment.

Taking traditional traditional Bosnian and gypsy sounds, he tries to mix them with disco, techno and even dub.  Does it work? Not always, but, for the majority of the album it’s very interesting, and, to be fair, I couldn’t ‘not’ play it all.

Take Sing Sing Cocek by Slavic Soul Party.  I wouldn’t call them soul, more fast jazz if anything.  It’s actually pretty clever – a pretty speedy affair, loads of brass instruments all over the place over an upbeat Latin American beat. 

There’s a track on here called Sex, Drugs, Berlinskibeat – how could you resist.  Some ‘oompah, oompah’s’ in the background.  An accordion.  A trumpet.  It sounds interesting, and, it is.  It does however border on throw away pop, there’s nothing wrong with this per se, the music industry is full of it and if there’s a market............ 

On first listen I hated the version of I Like To Move It.  On second listen, I hadn’t changed my mind.  I just think it’s a little disposable.  If dancing to daft songs at your Aunt and Uncle’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary is your thing then you’ll probably love it.  Several shots of vodka may also help to ake Los Colorados a little more bearable.  Balkan Bettie by Tommy Dollar is just plain silly.

The album closes with Georgian Lessons 1-6 where trumpet, harmonica, guitar, voice, etc.. are introduced one by one.  I found this both interesting and a little throwaway.  The idea behind the remix is a good one, and, for the majority of the album, I think that’s the key.  Robert has taken some very ordinary songs and tried to make them a little more interesting.   To be fair, you can’t knock what he has done.  The original songs he has remixed aren’t particularly spectacular, but, he seems to have really given them the Soko treatment, and, attempted to update them for the Western market.

Four On The Flo is pretty good.  Dubbed out guitars and voices.  A funky little thing with some saxophone and trumpet thrown in.  A bit of scratching and sampling.  It’s very listenable.

Similarly, Kad Ja Podjoh Na Benbasu is a relaxing little reggae number, and, probably one of the best tracks on the album. It’s also by Robert Soko himself.  As a standalone track it also works, in fact, I’d actually quite like to listen to an album of his original material.

 If you’re into dancing and in your town centre club at 2am on a Sunday morning, then you might like this album.  Your 3 year old daughter may also find it fun.  

What I’m trying to say is that it will have an audience.  I just don’t think I’m one of them.


Published on Louder Than War 10/10/12 - 


Music - Part 14 - Shiny Rhino




Undoubtedly, one of the great things about the internet and social media is the ability to find and listen to new music from anywhere around the world.  The number of artists I’ve found this way is pretty impressive, so, imagine my surprise when I found one in the next Borough to me via Twitter!

@MikeCornes is Shiny Rhino.

Based in Todmorden in West Yorkshire, Cornes has his own brand of synth pop.  Written, produced and mixed all by himself, his brand is clearly influences by 80s pop.  Incisive and often very very funny, you really can’t get his tunes out of your head.

Talking of which, Inside My Head is a stab at an accapella style tune.  Layered voices and whistles and ‘wah wah’s’, the track must have taken an age to record.  The tale of understanding the goings on in an overactive brain.  It’s an engaging track, and, I guarantee you’ll be singing it for a while.

Again And Again is a tale of love – living for that special moment which ends all too quickly.  A poppy little thing with a repetitive chorus which, does its job as a chorus!   I’m really reminded of all those great bands that nearly made it in the 80s, and, in a good way! 

The irony of I Thought I Heard Your Band On The Radio can’t go unnoticed.  Unsigned, struggling band playing in your local pub.  A bunch of mates who play together.  We all have mates like this.  Another cracking catchy tune.

Among the nine tracks currently uploaded, is another love song in the form of a garage/step affair.  Unrequited love is the subject of Significant Other.  I’m typing this and can’t get the melody out of my head.  You really can’t ignore Mike’s ability to knock out a catchy enjoyable song.

Don’t be fooled, there’s not just happy little dittys here.  My Sweet Rose tells the tale of a prostitute visitor who falls in love with ‘his’ lady.  Unable to give up on her, not understanding why she won’t share his love for her.  His life is nothing without his Rose Deuce.  And, on Jazz Lament, the pace slows right down.  An instrumental, and, a very enjoyable one at that.  I really do admire the conviction of Mike and the time and effort that must go into creating something, to be honest, so beautiful.

Nowadays, we have so much through away pop with no soul, that it’s great to hear something that someone has sweated blood and tears over.

Check out Shiny Rhino tunes on Bandcamp here - http://shinyrhino.bandcamp.com/  If you like something, why not cough up a few coppers and download?





Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Music - Part 13 - Princess Chelsea




How to make a Princess:

Take generous amounts of Polly Scattergood and Fiona Apple.  Add a sprinkling of Lilly Allen and a pinch of Little Boots to taste.  Include wonderful, enthralling, insightful lyrics, and, Voila!  Welcome to Lil’ Golden Book.

I’ve taken rather a shine to the debut album from Princess Chelsea.  I have to be honest. I’ve never heard of her before this, but, I suspect will be hearing much more in the future.

Hailing from New Zealand, she was part of The Brunettes whose ‘bubble-gum-pop’ was part of the Lil’ Chief Records collective.  She is also part of a Wings tribute band, Disciples Of Macca, but don’t let that put you off.

Chelsea Nikkel is classically trained, and, the evidence is clear for all to see.  Not only that, but, she also tried her hand(s) at the drums, guitar and clarinet.  If that wasn’t enough, she’s also engineered and produced this collection.

Lil’ Golden Book threads the songs together to tell a tale of growing up in New Zealand, with Princess Chelsea being the main character – “Life in New Zealand is pleasant enough, when we turn 22 it’s not violent enough”.  Often funny with a serious twist, her lyrics defy her age.  In fact, she’s more a poet than a lyricist.  For instance, take Too Fast To Live and its honest, if somewhat startling sardonic wit:

Please don’t drink too much
Drinking is bad for your heart and
Your organs they all fell down
Through the hole
That it’s made in your gut

I can’t be the only person who considers this to be brilliant.

Many of the songs have a suburban fairy tale feel.  Music-box soundscapes fused with electronica and orchestral weaves. 

Her first song is included here; the quirky Monkey Eats Bananas is a thumping, jungle-beat track that was a huge hit on YouTube.  Go on, look it up.  Another favourite on the www is/was The Cigarette Duet.  A clever little ditty duetted with Jonathan Brea, compares a couple’s opinions on smoking addiction.  Her – “It’s just a cigarette and it cannot be that bad”.  Him – “It’s just a cigarette and it harms your pretty lungs”.



The clockwork sounding merry-go-round of Ice Reign is delightful with its Queen Of Hearts “Off with your head”, and, Goodnight Little Robot Child is a lullaby to a laptop.

Strange? Yes.  Musically enthralling?  Yes.  A brilliant debut?  You’d better believe it.

Her record company describes the album as ‘the soundtrack to an old Disney movie meets Kraftwerk fronted by Enya in a 60s production of Les Miserables set in space’.  Who am I to argue?

If you like your music a little bit different, I strongly suggest you hear this album.  Me?  I’m off to add it to my Amazon Wish List.


Published on Louder Than War 2/10/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/princess-chelsea-lil-golden-book-album-review/