1. Fucked Up - 'No Epiphany', The Chemistry of Common Life
2. Mogwai - 'The Sun Smells Too Loud', The Hawk is Howling
3. Grails - 'Take Refuge', Take Refuge In Clean Living
4. Envy - 'Life Caught In The Rain', Envy/Jesu Split EP
5. Fight Like Apes, 'Something Global' (Edit), Something Global EP (Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion LP)
The title comes indirectly from a line in the Ramones song 'Chinese Rock', "all my best things are in hock" from End of the Century.
This mixtape comes from a selection of songs that have grabbed my attention in the last while, some on albums and in contexts where you'd expect a pop hook, and some that are more unexpected. The first two are from records (and artists) that are new to the blog, the latest releases from Fucked Up and Mogwai. The next two tracks from Grails and Envy have been mentioned, in some detail, before; and the particular records have both been superseded, though not necessarily surpassed, by newer releases. The final song - an obvious choice from an Irish perspective - has been knocking around for quite a few months now, with an EP/single and an album release behind it, plus a lot of local alternative radio play.
It took a couple of specific recommendations and a few weeks of procrastination before I went and checked out Fucked Up's latest album. I'm not too familiar with the band - who played Dublin a few weeks ago without my attendance - but I've always been vaguely aware of their experimental punk/hardcore aims. The Chemistry of Common Life is a good punk albums with plenty interesting flourishes, and although the singer's voice keeps reminding me of the Dropkick Murphys and other traditional hardcore bands that I stopped listening to years ago, it does seem like quality stuff. 'No Epiphany' is the track featured on the A.V. Club review (Grade: A), and the choice is clear to me as it was one of the songs in particular that caught my attention while walking around with this album. A stretching, soaring guitar hook and female backing vocals that extend quite naturally from a relatively orthodox melodic hardcore song, 'No Epiphany' is accessible and evocative. Experimental maybe, but there is a Bad Religion song of almost the same name, and essentially the same subject matter, that is just as good to listen to...
The new Mogwai album was introduced with this song as a taster, and as a non-Mogwai fan it was enough to get me interested or even excited about its release. Well, I have nothing in particular against the band, but an experimentation with their early work - yes, Young Team - left me cold. 'The Sun Smells Too Loud', on the other hand, is fascinating. It's a pop hook for the rest of the album that isn't in fact too similar to it, but it stands up on its own as well. There's that understated riff that lulls it way through all the song, and a constellation of other melodies and rhythms occuring alongside it. This is instrumental post-rock as it should be - exciting.
I've been banging on about this song for a while, and for that I make no apologies. 'Take Refuge' is Grails at their monumental, subtly crafted best. Every moment of this song swings, and its progression through climb-up, crescendo, climb-down, "Enrico Morriconi-esque" interlude, and reprise is a beautiful arc of musical composition. At its centre is a trademark Eastern/surf-rock riff, shaped and layered to perfection - though the Grails trademark has never been particulary static. The latest album (expect another post on it soon) Doomsdayer's Holiday continues with the surf-rock style, bearing down on it with even more spaghetti Easternness, but with a tighter and more focused sound overall than that of Burning Off Impurities.
Envy's split with Jesu is probably the more interesting piece of work of the two that they have produced this year, not least because the songs they have paired with Jesu have been particularly diverse. 'Life Caught In The Rain' is the poppiest song the band have ever written, but it's mostly an accent that the band applies to the ordinary post-rock structure of their songs. The unlikely hook comes from a guitar riff inserted in the space of the scream-your-head-off crescendo, but instead of deadening the song it gives it a new sense of energy and emphasises the melodic vibrancy of Envy's sound. Nothing I've heard this year, on their split with Jesu or with Thursday (the jury's still out on the whole idea of that one...), is going to fully satisfy the traditionalists amongst the Envy fans, but they're all still great songs.
"Hooks are for wimps/and choruses are for gays"
'Something Global' ("/...something real") is the rocking lead single from the Fight Like Apes debut album, and it really had to be included here for its apt subject matter, and because it's rather obviously meant to be a catchy pop song - of sorts. At one stage I had the full post-modern irony of the lyrics and the song structure all worked out but I've forgotten it now, so all I'll say is that it makes for a good encore.