Reviews

Oasis: Morning Glory - A Classic Album Under Review [DVD]

Jesse Hassenger

At best this is an informative audio commentary in search of a proper medium.


Oasis

Morning Glory - A Classic Album Under Review

Label: Music Video Distributors
US Release Date: 2007-03-13
Amazon
iTunes

Now that commentary tracks for films and television shows have become so commonplace, it's natural to look for their equivalents in other media. Annotated editions of books, of course, predate commentary tracks by a large margin, but the DVD's closest cousin, the CD, is less malleable. There are books about individual albums, like Continuum's 33 1/3 series, but the multimedia possibilities are typically limited to extensive liner notes or music-video collections on the disc's flipside.

The new DVD Morning Glory: A Classic Album in Review attempts something different. It's a documentary about the 1995 album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by the English rock 'n' roll band, Oasis -- not about the making of that album, mind you, but about the music itself. It functions as a sort of video commentary, with music journalists (from British publications like Q and NME) and some other spare Brits from the music industry going through the album, a smash hit from the glory days of Britpop, track by track.

It turns out to be a smart organizing principle. In fact, the documentary doesn't really find its focus until they get past the introductory bits and jump into track one ("Hello"), about 10 minutes into the film. It hits its stride with track two, about when you realize even the more devoted Oasis fans are happy to talk about the fact that "Roll With It" sucks (judgments range from "harmless" to "atrocious").

Hit singles like "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" spark broad discussion about the band's popularity and technique (they were massive, they were lads, they stole shamelessly from the Beatles and others), but it's the deep album cuts that provide less obvious analysis. The title track, released as a single in the US but not in Britain, prompts recounting of the band's efforts to "break" in America; the goofy "She's Electric" inspires discussion of Noel Gallagher's particular style of lyric-writing, which is eventually categorized somewhere between heartfelt and tossed off.

Throughout, the talking heads don't do much to distinguish themselves. They appear in isolated interviews, not a group discussion, and their names don't appear often enough to gain a sense of who they are beyond their opinions of Oasis (let's see, there's the even-tempered bald guy who prefers Noel's voice to Liam's, and the skinny guy who grudgingly admits that some of the songs on Morning Glory are pretty good... collectively, they oscillate between worship and vague disdain). It doesn't help that they're all British blokes; there are on-screen quotes from a (male) Rolling Stone critic, but no other input from the other side of the pond or even restroom queue.

Granted, Oasis's hugeness was most present in Britain (one commentator notes that at one point you could be fairly certain that about one out of every 15 people you passed on the street owned an Oasis CD), and their working-class Britishness was in turn a major factor of their success. But voices from other countries could've provided additional perspective. There are certainly shades of US politics when one talking head supposes that Oasis won their chart battle with rivals Blur because people thought they'd "get on" better with Oasis.

A low budget may have precluded a greater variety of voices; certainly it created other limitations. The most obvious is manifested through countless pans over CD covers and shots of generic radio dials: for a DVD, Morning Glory is distinctly lacking in visuals. Video footage of the band turns up, but you can hear the clips scraping up against fair-use time limits. Worse, the fractions of songs are often from concert excerpts -- sloppier live cuts that lack the album sheen described in the interviews. This might fit better if anyone talked about the band as a live act, but no one does.

The disc's only truly notable extra stays in the low-budget realm: a jumbly, mumbly US radio interview with a pre-rivalry Oasis and Blur. It's strictly audio only which, given the other aspects of the DVD, suggests that the interview may be readily available for free elsewhere. Regardless, it's an amusing novelty that even fans will probably only explore for a fraction of its 15-minute running time.

It's those fans who will be interested in the project as a whole, which feels like an informative audio commentary in search of a proper medium. In the end, the DVD doesn't have many advantages over, say, a book about an album. The truly dedicated may want to cue up the Morning Glory CD, Dark Side of the Moon style, before hitting "play".

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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