Sunday, July 10, 2011


To say this isn't my usual fayre would be something of an understatement. With the exception of R Kelly's unfathomably brilliant 'Trapped in the Closet' and an inexplicable soft spot for Cisco's 'Thong Song' Swing-Beat is not an genre for which I have professed any kind of love.

There are I'm sure millions who still insist on calling the likes of Bobby Brown, Bel Biv Divoe et al R N'B much to the char-grin of an army of 60 somethings keen to point out that this modern 'soul' music has absolutely nothing to do with the 'rhythm' and or 'blues'. Regardless I digress.

I also need to make an amendment to that opening comment. If memory serves there was a brief period during my tenure at college in the woefully dull northern town of Warrington when I acquired and played with some vigor some swing beat compilation tape or other. The reason for this, I have to admit is that I was under the impression that it would somehow make me more desirable to 'the ladies'. Did that clear perspex C90 TDK cassette of magic have it's desired effect? For me no, but I have friends who have a countless bedpost notches no small thanks to having wank taste in music such as the 'swing beat'.

And now following that foggily remembered admission I need to again eat my words and profess a new found love for said genre for after much umming that is squarely where The Weeknd's 'House of Balloons (Official Mix Tape' falls.

To say it is good is an understatement. The only thing stopping this of falling short of album of the year is the fact that it doesn't strictly exist. There is currently no CD, no vinyl album, no cassette (sorry Dan). I don't know the exact reason for this but can only imagine it has to do with copyright clearance. The album uses a few snippets of other peoples work and this could be reason for it's virtual only existence and the albums 'Official Mix Tape' monika. I should check... But I won't.

Instead I shall try and describe how glorious this album is.

I've had a number of conversations about it with friends and fellow music-nazis and as of yet I've not heard a bad thing said about it.

It's like the music they play at the end of a party when everybody is too high and too tired to leave. It's the soundtrack to dawn rising on a room full of fucked up people, broken furniture and blood stains. It's what you might play on your stereo if you were a date-rape magician, tapping a veil of ro-ho into a glass of cheap sparkling wine. It's the songs that might be playing when a gang of gate crashers turn up at the party from the start of this paragraph, force you to perform unnatural sex acts on them that may or may not involve two girls and one cup before stealing the still playing hi-fi, your wallet and your sex tired girlfriend.

'House of Balloons' is Bobby Brown with his hand up Whitney Houston's ass trying to clear the way with his crap caked fingers because she hasn't shit for days. It's Bobby and Whitney sharing a lovers pipe, huffing milky white rocks as a new day rises over tinsel town, kidnapped dolphins trying to escape from the pairs dirty and piss filled swimming pool.

The first track sets the mood suggesting 'You're gonna wanna be high for this'. High for what? Well if it's not rape then I don't know what it is. Catchy as fuck, production so dirty and blissed out that it falls somewhere between Salem and Destiny's Child. Add to that the kind of voice that would, if it weren't so fraught be at home as part of Dru Hill and 'House of Balloons' is cooking with the gas from a mobile home meth-lab bunsen burner.

I could go through track by track lamenting the numerous merits but will instead just say that highlights include 'Wicked Games' and 'The Party and The After Party'. (The one with the Beach House sample)

Not even the wrong-foot' at the start of track four 'The Morning', a Clapton like guitar lick is enough to stop this working completely, it's that fucking good.

Given this is a habit breaking review and that you cant 'buy' 'House of Balloons' I will also utter the words I never thought I would say: Download this album... Now.

The Weeknd are from Toronto, Canada and despite this uncharacteristically glowing write-up I do know and have never met them. By the sounds of this they are having way too much fun scraping silk clad hookers up off the floor and drinking Mandrax power shakes to go out and meet people.


Goddamn I am tired. I'm now two thirds of the way through one of those 'blink and you'll miss em' weekends having done precisely nothing with my down-time. The past 24 hours or so might as well have been spent in an airport waiting room staring off through the soundproof glass at the coming and going of planes, transfixed by the grim monotony of it all.

In fact the only thing I recall about yesterday is a curry and spending far too much time reading of the ins and outs of the 'News of The World' phone hacking scandal and the 'newspapers' consequent closure. Wow is RebeCCa Brooks evil. I don't care what she says, she is either a liar or incompetent, either way she needs to go the fuck down with her ship. For somebody 'of the media' she is handling herself nothing short embarrassingly. Forget her past actions, I am talking about the scowl, the out of control King Charles the First ginger pubic hair explosion on her head and pouty lips. Seriously love, just for once tie your hair back, think about what you are wearing and try not to look like you are trying to make the camera melt with your demented black witch laser eyes.

In fact I hate the woman's hair so much that it got me thinking about other people's hair that I hate: Rob Tyner of MC5, the fat speccy one out of the Turtles and this guy... The one with the center parting from Euphoria. Seriously, fuck your hair. I had to put the CD on to remind myself why I own an album featuring such a hideous folic abomination.

Euphoria's 'A Gift From Euphoria' is another great reason for buying a CD player. When you do see a vinyl copy (there was one on the wall of Minus Zero records in Notting Hill last time I went in) it's always more than you would like it to be. Don't think I've ever seen one go for less than about 120 quid (around $200).

Anyway, tired of searching for a cheap playable copy I settled for buying a CD from Amazon about ten years ago, but not even that was as simple as it might have been. Turns out there's some kind of dance music organization called 'Euphoria' so you have to trawl through page after page of shiny and stupid looking compilation CDs.

Another reason for coming back to this of late is the anniversary of Mercury Rev and their 'Deserter Songs' album, that game changing Disney inspired soundtrack to a comedown. I was a big fan of 'Deserter Songs' and like many others it took me completely by surprise. I had hated everything else the band had done with a passion but I found myself won over by the strained honesty of the vocals and the mind-blowingly lush string arrangements. So where did it come from? Had the band succeeded in inventing a new genre, a musical hybrid the likes of which the tired and weary world of music had not yet heard?

No. As much as I'd be more than happy with that series of events the reality is that 'that sound' began here with the album's opener 'Lisa'. It makes 'Deserter Songs' sound like a facsimile, a glorious copy and paste. Unfortunately the rest of the album is a different matter, it's a cluttered exercise in attempting to sound like various hit (and non hit) makers of the day. The over all impression is of a band trying to find it's sound, dipping it's toes into the realms of everyone from IRA sympathiser Van Morrison to the Moby Grape. Because of this it has a similar feel to the Turtle's 'Battle of the Bands' album.

What makes this all the more frustrating is that they give the world a song like 'Lisa' and never throughout the rest of the album go back to revisit the magic. If only they had realized what they had done we might not have had to wait thirty something years for Mercury Rev to complete the picture.

So basically, get the CD, listen to 'Lisa' then move on to 'Deserter Songs'.