Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Neil Finn's "She Will Have Her Way"

Neil Finn officially commenced his solo jaunt in 1998 with the release of the "She Will Have Her Way" single, taken off the superlative album "Try Whistling This". While the song is an archetypal melodic Finn number, it's the video clip that is worth mentioning. Based on the cult 1958 sci-fi click "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman", the promo shows Finn getting into various scrapes with the titular character. By turns hilarious, cinematic and poignant, it's one of the better-produced narrative videos of the late 1990s.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Best Album Ever Written About Clinical Depression

The late Nick Drake might be held in the highest regard by singer-songwriters of all stripes now, but in his all-too-brief lifetime, he was a troubled soul perenially plagued by clinical depression and an overwhelming lack of self-esteem.

However, what constituted an unsettled persona also made for some of the finest songs ever put down onn record. Drake's thoughtfully constructed songs were suffused with a sombre and dark elegance, perfect backdrops for his stark confessions of chronic despondency, broken relationships, abject depression and mortality.

The depth of his introspective songs remains unmatched even today, and the one work that best encapsulates his singular artistry has to be his final album, the overwhelmingly harrowing "Pink Moon".

Locking himself in the studio for two sleepless days and nights in late 1971, Drake embarked on recording sessions for what is arguably one of the most morbid and despondent albums in 20th-century music history.

The songs on "Pink Moon", all shot through with a palpable sense of trepidation, offered a too-close-for-comfort scrutiny of Drake's final breakdown. Its sheer sombreness and inherent sense of despair and defeat had absolutely no precedents; indeed, it has been cited by contemporary pain merchants as the most single most important influence on their works.

Songs like the title track, "Things Behind the Sun", "Harvest Breed", "Road" and "From the Morning" are unmatched in their sheer emotional weight and their decidedly bleak accounts of mortality, destiny, melancholia and hopelessness.

Devastating through and through, "Pink Moon" is the sort of album which shouldn't be listened to with razor blades lying around.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Stay the Night" by Chicago

Recently came across this video clip again, countless years after I first viewed it. Inane, frivolous, and yet strangely compelling at the same time, this promo arguably features the most number of stunts in any video from the 1980s. Awesomely wacky!

Elizabeth Fraser: Vocalist Extraordinaire

Metamorphosing from one of the pioneering post-punk, Goth-rock bands on the infamous 4AD label to arguably the most accomplished dream-pop band ever, Cocteau Twins remain relevant even a full decade after they went their separate ways. Cocteau Twins practically invented and radicalised the dream-pop genre, where gossamer, breathy vocals drift and glide on top of an ambient bedrock of processed and echoed guitar and synthesizer sounds, creating a netherworld soundscape that was both ecstatic and frightening at the same time.

The main ingredient in Cocteau Twins' unique, dreamlike sound was the dramatic, otherworldly, ethereal-beyond-description voice of Elizabeth Fraser. Fraser had a highly distinctive vocal style that could be as caressing as a lover's whisper one moment, and as goosebump-inducing as an avenging angel the next.

Fraser also sung in an indecipherable fashion, nonchalantly pilfering words from English, Latin, Gaelic and other arcane languages, and jumbling them up in a highly textural and ultimately emotional collision of sounds. This made for an unparalleled aural mix that had absolutely no musical precedents.

A good example of Fraser's vocal acrobatics can be found on the title track of 1990's heavenly "Heaven or Las Vegas". Be prepared to be mesmerised.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"On a gathering storm comes a tall handsome man, in a dusty black coat with a red right hand"

Skin-crawlingly creepy and practically radiating an aura of pure evil, Nick Cave's decidedly sinister "Red Right Hand" is just about the most perfect lyrical narrative of Mephistopheles and his deeds ever laid down on record. The song itself doesn't allude to the Adversary by any known name, but the verses alone are enough to conjure up the appropriate imagery:

"He'll wrap you in his arms, tell you that you've been a good boy,
He'll rekindle all the dreams it took you a lifetime to destroy."

"He'll reach deep into the hole, heal your shrinking soul,
But there won't be a single thing that you can do."

"You'll see him in your nightmares, you'll see him in your dreams,
He'll appear out of nowhere, but he ain't what he seems."

Coupled with a highly atmospheric instrumental backing (queasy, carnival-esque organs, doomy-sounding bells, sudden oscillator bursts, Cave's own American Gothic-preacher vocalisations), and you have a theatrical, noirish piece that is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Galvanising to no end.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

David Sylvian's "Orpheus"

One of the most artistic and well-considered video clips of all time has to be the one for the atmospheric existentialist-angst ballad "Orpheus" by art-rocker David Sylvian. Shot in southern Spain, in tasteful black-and-white shades, the promo is a wonderful example of how evocative light-and-shadow interplay can be if utilised in a logical manner. Sheer poetry in motion.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dazzle Ships

When Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released the decidedly leftfield "Dazzle Ships" in 1983, it was met with varying degrees of reception, from curious fascination to cautious acceptance to outright hostility. Granted, the twelve songs on "Dazzle Ships" were a far cry indeed from their erstwhile thoughtfully constructed, pristine synth-pop, i.e. accepted standards like "Electricity", "Enola Gay", "Souvenir" and "Joan of Arc". After all, material like musique concrete montages, found-sound samples, time-zone service recordings and random short-wave radio transmission snippets do not exactly constitute studio techniques normally associated with the Liverpudlians.

But make no mistake, "Dazzle Ships" is a concept album that is far ahead of its time, however underrated it might still be. The most striking thing about "Dazzle Ships" is how it seamlessly blends the band's newfound sense of experimentalism with the album's thematic visions of a Huxley-influenced society, Cold War tensions, burgeoning computer usage and cloning technology. Wholly sample-constituted tracks like "Radio Prague", "ABC Auto-Industry", "This Is Helena" and "Time Zones" brilliantly display the sense of alienation and loss of self in a dystopian environment, while other more accessible songs like "International", "Genetic Engineering", "Telegraph" and "Of All the Things We've Made" resurrect the O.M.D. popcraft of yore, while lyrically addressing the core premises of the record.

Engrossing from start to finish, and one of the most under-appreciated gems in the band's oeuvre.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Forbidden Colours

A constant quandary for musicians trying bridge the gap between worldbeat and Western rock is the apparent dichotomy that separates the two forms of musical expression. While the stereotypical temperament of the former often invokes devices like exotic polyrhythmic cadences, tricky or freeform time signatures and ad-libbed song configurations, the latter is customarily portrayed as relying on methods like conventional arrangements, strict note compartmentalisation and consistent 4/4 rhythms.

Given the various structural differences between the two, there have been extremely meagre examples of how a song can encapsulate the idiosyncrasies that exist. However, there is one composition that manages to marry the seemingly disparate elements into a seamless whole.

The song in question is "Forbidden Colours", the 1983 collaboration between the endlessly creative musical Renaissance Man Ryuichi Sakamoto and stalwart art-rocker David Sylvian. Combining Sakamoto's distinctive pentatonic harmonic style and Sylvian's empathic melodic sensibilities, "Forbidden Colours" first appeared in its vocal version on the soundtrack to Nagisa Oshima's existentialist war morality play "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" (in which Sakamoto appeared in a secondary starring role), and even made its way into the British Top 20.

However, the most consummate version of "Forbidden Colours" has to be the one found on Sylvian's third album, 1987's elegantly pastoral "Secrets of the Beehive". Instead of the austere, icy synth patterns that dominated the original rendition, this reinterpretation builds its overall figure around an atmospheric, all-enveloping string arrangement and subtle, Satie-esque piano chords by Sakamoto, bolstered by virtuosic percussion work from Steve Jansen and a warm lead vocal by Sylvian, who also weighs in with some minimal synth tones.

Simultaneously evocative and emotional, without conveying any sense of mawkishness, this reading of "Forbidden Colours" is by far the one that most ably fleshes out the inherent spirit of the song, with some of the most brilliant instrumental interplay ever laid down on record.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Boys of Summer

Arguably the most descriptive song to be written about the passing of youth and the loss of innocence, Don Henley's melancholic 1984 hit "The Boys of Summer" has a similarly evocative video clip, directed by auteur Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

Showing the protagonist at three different stages of his life, the bleak, yet compelling French new wave-influenced clip complements the song's palpable tone of resignation perfectly, and its black-and-white temperament adds the requisite pathos quotient to the mix. One of the best-matched song-and-video combinations possible.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pink Floyd Instrumentals

It's not exactly the in thing these days to profess an affinity for the music of Pink Floyd, but back in the day, these prog-rock giants were virtual masters of all they surveyed, and then some. However, a little-mentioned but highly essential part of this rock institution is their ability to craft carefully constructed, highly atmospheric instrumentals. While these non-vocal tracks are nowhere as well-known as certified standards like "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)", "Comfortably Numb" or "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", it's still worthwhile to take stock of their structures and how they figure in the Pink Floyd scheme of things:

This twelve-minute behemoth is as avant-garde as Pink Floyd can ever get, with lots and lots of organ drones, guitar feedback, clanging percussion, spacey oscillators and spooky ad-libbed vocals. Divided into four parts ("Something Else", "Syncopated Pandemonium", "Storm Signal" and "Celestial Voices"), and an essential component of the Pink Floyd live experience.

Without a doubt, the most spaced-out and greatest song title in Pink Floyd's repertoire, this sound experiment in vari-speed features sped-up and slowed-down samples of rodents and birds that eventually culminates in a few stanzas of lyrical hogwash spoken by frontman Roger Waters in a thick Scottish brogue. Great for those late-night magic-mushroom sessions.

A restful, pastoral piece that is built from acoustic-guitar figures and several different types of birdsong, almost Nick Drake in overall nature. Arguably the most idyllic of all of the band's instrumental compositions.

A suite in six parts that clocks in at a mind-warping twenty-four minutes. Organ solos, slide guitars, horn charts, choir samples, public announcements, drum solos: everything but the kitchen sink is tossed into the mix for this one.

A logical opener to the first post-Roger Waters album, 1987's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason", "Signs of Life" takes in liberal samples of rowing boats and computerised voices, and meshes it all with sweeping synth chords and delicate acoustic-guitar pluckings, deftly building up a sense of ominous anticipation. One of the strongest opening tracks on any Pink Floyd record.

1994's "The Division Bell" was mostly derided as a tired effort from an increasingly disinterested and ageing band, but "Marooned" showed that Pink Floyd still can cut it, at least when it comes to cutting instrumentals. An apt for David Gilmour's expressive, measured high-pitched guitar chops, "Marooned" makes fantastic use of pitch shifters to transpose his notes to a higher octave. It also unexpectedly garnered the band their only Grammy to date (for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 1995 event).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Guitar Feedback Exponents

The concept of guitar feedback is an oft-misunderstood notion in rock music. To its detractors, it is nothing more than sheer cacophony, blatant, deafening noise deliberately made for the sake of raising a hell of a racket and causing timid ears to bleed.

However, to diehard proponents, guitar feedback is a bona fide sonic innovation, an intricately constructed, densely packed form of orchestration that remains one of the most important developments in late 20th-century rock.

One of the primary exponents of guitar feedback is noise-pop pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain. The group, comprising Jima nd William Reid, work in a seemingly contradictory musical style: their songs had a bubble-gum melodic foundation, borrowing some of the bright, poppish affectations of The Beach Boys and The Lovin' Spoonful, but they were all wrapped snugly in swirls of aggressive dissonance and atonal white noise.

In conjunction with the recent re-releases of almost the entire Jesus and Mary Chain discography as DualDiscs (i.e. 1985's "Psychocandy", 1987's "Darklands", 1989's "Automatic", 1992's "Honey's Dead" and 1994's "Stoned and Dethroned", but understandably omitting 1998's largely underdeveloped "Munki"), I'd like to run through some of my favourite tunes by these Glaswegian natives:

A good example of early-era JAMC, this slow-motion ballad (most recently used in Sofia Coppola's brilliant existentialist flick "Lost in Translation") is a sweet-toned concoction leavened by harsh, primal drumbeats and most surprisingly, a bedrock of subdued feedback that tries to approximate Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique. And it works brilliantly too.

The title track to the JAMC's sophomore effort is a stately mid-tempo ballad that downplays the band's feedback fixations for a more atmospheric, accessible vibe that emphasises their hithetro buried melodic sensibilities. One of the most under-recognised classics of the 1980s.

A sneering, rightfully arrogant piece of updated glam-rock that recalls the best moments of T-Rex, the most remarkable thing about "Sidewalking" is that the shards of controlled feedback that anchor the proceedings never once threaten to overwhelm the song's basic structure: instead, the white noise forcefully underline the track's monstrous, underlying menace.

Turbo-charged power chords, calibrated, incendiary feedback, explosive drum work, supercilious, couldn't-give-a-flying-fuck vocals. What's not to like about this let-it-all-hang-out celebration of nihilism?

"I wanna die just like Jesus Christ." An attention-grabbing opening line, if there ever was one. This shoegazer-influenced, Church-baiting, tensely wound number is the musical equivalent of industrial-strength hydrochloric acid.

A gentle, fuzzed-out duet with Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, this Paisley Underground-informed tune displays a previously undiscovered side to the JAMC. The jangle-pop groove works wonderfully as well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Incomparable Suzanne Vega

Consummate Greenwich Village bohemian, astoundingly literate singer-songwriter, perennial bedsit heroine and iconic folk-pop luminary. Throughout her official two decade-plus residency in the industry, the ethereal-voiced Suzanne Vega have worn many artistic hats, even if she is still unjustly remembered as having just one hit single, 1987's deceptively sweet-toned "Luka". Bit of a shame, really.

While that harrowing first-person account of child abuse is her most significant chart entry to date, there is also an astoundingly rich body of work that sadly remains known to only a select circle of discerning listeners. Vega's repertoire is an absorbing, erudite and intriguing one that more than merits a periodic run-through, and also solid proof that she is not so much ahead of the pack, as running a different race altogether:

Vega's eponymous debut brings to mind a more accessible early-era Leonard Cohen, although, like that celebrated singer-poet, the majority of Vega's initial work is conveyed through wonderfully oblique metaphors. The coolly detached and slightly surreal "Marlene on the Wall" is the obvious highlight here, but other effervescent tracks like "Small Blue Thing", "Undertow" and the heartbreaking medieval morality tale "The Queen and the Soldier" have their fair share of engaging moments.

The album that delivered Vega her Top Ten hit sees her working with sturdier full-band arrangements, and more accessible, poppish (but no less terrific) production values. The observant slice-of-life narrative "Tom's Diner" was later remixed into a hip-hop club staple by DNA, while the idyllic, cordial "Gypsy" (which superbly displays her superlative finer-picking skills) is Vega's most melodic moment to date.

Vega stumble slightly with this third effort, mostly due to an unwieldy art-pop production template, but evocative, luminous songs like "Book of Dreams", "Tired of Sleeping" and "Institution Green" thankfully prove that she hasn't lost her inherent melodic sensibilities.

99.9Fº (1992)
A bold, adventurous step forward that has Vega drastically expanding her fundamental sound palette to include synth-pop, found-sound aesthetics, industrial rhythms and streamlined funk grooves. While numbers like "Blood Makes Noise", "Rock in This Pocket" and the hypnotic title track are the most startling in terms of fresh artistic patterns, it's the stately existential-angst anecdote "In Liverpool" that easily commands the most attention as a prime example of the new-look Vega.

Garnering newfound confidence from her previous album, Vega consolidates the sonic adventurism of "99.9Fº" for a quietly certain, subtly textured work that encompasses a variety of exotic genres like bossa nova, lounge-pop, and even classical minimalism. "No Cheap Thrill" has a distinct Cuban-pop vibe, "Stockings" flirts with pseudo-Arabic cadences, and the utterly compelling, silky-smooth "Caramel" is Vega's most frankly carnal instance ever.

Recovering from a difficult divorce and two albums of leftfield sonic experimentalism, Vega issued this subdued, tasteful but still effective record that is, in some ways, a more world-weary update of her 1985 debut. The slyly acerbic "Last Year's Troubles", the knowingly subversive "I'll Never Be Your Maggie May" (a sort of reverse "Mrs. Robinson") and the hauntingly confessional "Penitent" rank amongst the most accomplished tunes Vega has ever written.

Monday, August 07, 2006


While your average card-carrying MTV generation member would immediately identify Norwegian pop institution a-ha with the era-defining Rotoscoped "Take on Me", the video for their very first single from 1985, what most people don't realise is that they have produced even more compelling visual fests ever since.

One such engaging promo is for the title track of their 2002 work "Lifelines". The entire video takes place at Børfjord, a semi-deserted fishing village in northern Norway, and uses ingenious time-lapse photography shot at 50,000 times the normal speed to show the passing of the seasons and the effects on the environment.

Anyway, a picture (or in this case, a video) is worth a thousand words, so have a look at the clip.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ten Positively Inclined Love Songs

Here is a list of ten positively inclined love songs. To explain their significance and analyse them in minute detail would be to defeat the purpose of this post, which is simply to list down ten positively inclined love songs.

1. LET YOUR LOVE DECIDE - Aztec Camera
2. SOMEBODY'S BABY - Jackson Browne
3. TAKE YOUR TIME - Lori Carson
4. NORTHERN SKY - Nick Drake
6. THROW YOUR ARMS AROUND ME - Hunters and Collectors
8. ANGELIOU - Van Morrison
9. SWEET FIRE OF LOVE - Robbie Robertson
10. I SAW THE LIGHT - Todd Rundgren

The Popcraft of Neil Finn

The ever-reliable Neil Finn remains one of the industry's most under-recognised singer-songwriters, despite the long years of service he has put in with skewed new-wave geniuses Split Enz and legendary pop-rock combo Crowded House. This is a real shame, seeing that Finn has time and again proved to be a unique talent who manages to retain a genuine artistic sensibility while having a nose for commercial, chart-friendly melodies. Very few others of his generation, apart from sporadic, singular geniuses like Roddy Frame and Elvis Costello, have come close to matching his songwriting acumen.

While Finn has written his share of pop gems with Split Enz (e.g. "I Got You", "Message to My Girl"), and embarked on a slightly leftfield pop path during his solo jaunt, it as with the legendary Crowded House that his songwriting skills really came into a class of its own. Taking full advantage of his impeccable pop craftsmanship, Finn, during his ten years with the Antipodean pop institution, banged out some of the most memorable and enduring tunes to fill the airwaves and listeners' hearts. Finn wrote nary a duff track during the course of Crowded House's four studio albums, and here are some notable songs from that golden era:

DON'T DREAM IT'S OVER (Crowded House, 1986)
The Crowded House song that everyone from the ages of 8 to 80 are familiar with. A bittersweet rumination on lost innocence and happier times, this stately, lyrical ballad has been covered numerous times, and remains the best-loved songs in their repertoire.

SOMETHING SO STRONG (Crowded House, 1986)
Arguably the group's most optimistic number, this effervescent tune is the most expressive moment on the group's eponymous debut album. Also noteworthy for its seamless incorporation of Finn's approximation of mid-period Beatles guitar hooks.

BETTER BE HOME SOON (Temple of Low Men, 1988)
Another quietly regal ballad that possesses a slight country vibe, with some stellar Hammond organ grooves courtesy of Finn himself. A perfect closer for Crowded House's 1988 sophomore effort, "Temple of Low Men".

FALL AT YOUR FEET (Woodface, 1991)
The most obvious McCartney-esque number in the group's catalogue, and a prime contender for the title of "Archetypal Crowded House Song". The double-tracked harmonies here (supplied by Finn and brother Tim, a special guest on third album "Woodface") are absolutely heavenly.

FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY (Woodface, 1991)
A nice little ballad that contains the only Finn lyrical profanity to date, "Four Seasons in One Day" is also renowned for its baroque-style harpsichord solo during the song's middle eight.

FINGERS OF LOVE (Together Alone, 1993)
A moody, atmospheric epic that accurately reflects the isolated, pastoral surroundings in which the band recorded their fourth and final album, 1993's "Together Alone". Featuring some of Finn's most eloquent and articulate guitar work to date.

DISTANT SUN (Together Alone, 1993)
This luminous gem is the most immediate and accessible melody on "Together Alone", and a strong example of Finn's more spacey, but no less excellent latter-day songwriting aptitude.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cold Case Theme Song

At first, a powerfully ominous composition like E.S. Posthumus's "Nara" seems rather incompatible with a Jerry Bruckheimer production. But a melodramatic series like "Cold Case" (its harsh, realistic tone stands in stark contrast with other glossier Bruckheimer programmes, i.e. the "C.S.I." franchise) deserves an appropriate theme song to match its ever-present sense of foreboding, and so the experimental electronic group's evocative work was chosen.

By turns threatening, theatrical and tense, "Nara" also has that all-too-important emotional quotient, which meshes well with Det. Lilly Rush's dogged persistence to obtain closure for the cases under investigation. An exceptional choice, and arguably the best TV theme song I've ever heard.

Postscript: I'm a huge fan of the show, not just because of its usage of direction-specific flashbacks and virtuosic performances by the always terrific but sadly underrated Kathryn Morris in almost every episode, but also because of its inspired practice of using period-appropriate music for expository flashbacks to the year in question.

Too bad there hasn't been a DVD release as yet. However, check out a wonderful interview with the ever fantastic Kathryn Morris here.

The Best Use of a Mellotron on a Rock Song

The Mellotron, for all intents and purposes, is the first polyphonic keyboard instrument to make full use of tape banks housing the sounds of various instruments, and was the direct precursor to the numerous digital samplers on the market today. What is so unique about the Mellotron is its ability to realistically emulate a myriad of sounds, not just obvious ones like string and brass instruments, but also other sound effects like pitch variations and percussion loops.

This enabled many marquee prog-rock acts of the 1970s (i.e. Yes, Genesis, the Moody Blues) to recreate elaborate orchestral arrangements on their recordings (and sometimes even in concert), without actually forking out inordinate amounts of money to employ a full-sized orchestra. More funds for mind-altering substances to help with the songwriting, then.

While the most well-known use of a Mellotron in rock history remains the Moody Blues' studio recording of the dreamy "Nights in White Satin", my personal preference for the best use of a Mellotron in a rock song is in King Crimson's portentous 1969 epic "In the Court of the Crimson King", a phantasmagoric, nine-minute tone poem that remains, justifiably, their most famous composition.

The Mellotron on "In the Court of the Crimson King", played by the virtuosic Ian McDonald, is obvious right from the beginning, when it announces itself with an expressive, expansive, four-bar theme that comprises the main instrumental motif of the song. Throughout the entire track, McDonald's Mellotron riff (manifested here in a grand-sounding orchestral-string incarnation) shows up at regular points, interspersed with Michael Giles's ominous drum rolls and resident guitar deity Robert Fripp's standard-issue guitar freak-outs, eventually pulling out all the stops with a dramatic, almost berserk flourish, before coming abruptly to a cold ending.

Incredibly evocative and undoubtedly powerful.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Roddy Frame: Pop Genius

In an era filled with androgynous New Romantic poseurs wearing frilly shirts, schlocky hair-metal purveyors and cringeworthy smooth-jazz suits, Roddy Frame stood out like the proverbial breath of fresh air. Armed with nothing more than a seemingly inexhaustible compendium of instantly memorable melodies and his trusty Rickenbacker, Frame (initially with his pop combo Aztec Camera, and then going it alone from the mid-1990s onwards) carved out a unique niche of his own in an otherwise trite industry.

Throughout a two-decade-plus career, Frame has run through a gamut of styles, but has always remembered to maintain his songwriting acumen and his singular sense of artistry. Here are some highlights of this pop genius's repertoire:

OBLIVIOUS (High Land Hard Rain, 1983)
A wryly resounding pop blast of cheery pessimism, "Oblivious" was the single that first put Frame's name on the map, and made hims the hero for amateur bedsit singer-songwriters everywhere. Powered by a series of deft acoustic-guitar chords, with a breathless one-minute solo thrown in for good measure, this pop classic sounds as fresh and potent as ever, even after more than two decades since its initial release.

Some longtime fans might doubt the merits of this glossy, Mark Knopfler-produced number, but the new surroundings do provide Frame's melodies with a newfound sense of sophistication. The synth-heavy arrangement might seem incongruous with the song's basic framework at first, but none of Frame's previous efforts has come close to being this groove-oriented.

Frame goes the Philly soul route with this devastatingly radio-friendly tune, which remains his most recognisable hit. Bold, brash horn charts, steady drum work, slashing guitar riffs and an upfront Frame vocal equals an instant pop classic.

THE CRYING SCENE (Stray, 1990)
An insouciant Northern soul workout that incorporates a requisite gritty element, this wonderful approximation of mid-period Jam is a reasurring indicator of Frame's increasing artistic maturity.

BIRDS (Dreamland, 1993)
Having stalwart synth-pop pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce Frame is a stroke of genius, as proven on this luminous, summery gem. Sakamoto couches Frame's aching unrequited-love tale in a widescreen, expansive instrumental panorama that adds a much-needed sense of musical drama to the proceedings.

RAINY SEASON (Frestonia, 1995)
A bittersweet rumination that finds Frame in archetypal reflective lyrical mode, "Rainy Season" has an initial deceptively simple pop vibe that eventually blossoms into a Spector-ish Wall-of-Sound extravaganza.

SISTER SHADOW (The North Star, 1998)
Almost an update of Frame's nascent, early-period sensibilities, this marvellously pure pop-rocker has a relentless drive that belies a desperately yearning unrequited-love lyric.

SURF (Surf, 2002)
Containing arguably the most candid set of songwords in any Frame song, this crystalline title track to Frame's all-acoustic 2002 showcase is a knowing tribute of sorts to the late, lamented Nick Drake. Oh, and it's about unrequited love, too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Anton Corbijn, Rock Photographer Extraordinaire

Currently filming the much-anticipated biopic of tragic Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, legendary Dutch photographer and music-video director Anton Corbijn has enjoyed more than two decades of recognition in a highly competitive and ruthless business.

Throughout his career, Corbijn has designed album covers and shot videos for various industry mainstays like U2, Bob Dylan, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, David Sylvian and Massive Attack, all in that singular style of his. Corbijn specialises in an organic, earthy, stripped-down look that often emphasises the act's inherent artistic temperament.

Here are some prime examples of his work:

Perhaps the most enduring cover image to be associated with the Irish rockers, Corbijn posed the band at a particularly desolate locale in Death Valley for this decidedly moody panoramic shot that succinctly displays the stark, striking contrast between man and nature.

101 (Depeche Mode, 1988)
An astute pictorial commentary on the benefits of capitalism, Corbijn's shot of a Depeche Mode concert merchandise stand is an apt image that perfectly reflects the expectant sense of looming success that the electro-pop outfit felt during their American tour in 1988.

VIOLATOR (Depeche Mode, 1990)
A ridiculously simple design for Depeche Mode's American breakthrough. That single stalk of red rose is almost Warholian in nature, and is a great visual representation of the band's increasing artistic confidence.

The garage-rock veterans' most sombre work gets an austere, industrial-informed design that mirrors the album's general themes of mortality and nostalgia perfectly.

DEVILS AND DUST (Bruce Springsteen, 2005)
Springsteen's thematic work on the corrosive effects of war and economic oppression gets an appropriately bleak image that shows the Boss in a pensive, reflective state.