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There are only two rules of pirate metal: 1) pirate metal exists, and 2) shitty costumes.

The third rule (of two) is that you must always – ALWAYS – cover a seafaring shanty from a popular children’s TV show. US pirate thrash band Swashbuckle pioneered the art way back in 2008 with their cover of the SpongeBob Squarepants theme tune, but ballsed it up by making it really, really, really, really, really, really shit. I mean fuck. Pirates aren’t even cool. These people didn’t shower for fuck’s sake, and pissing yourself after 11 bottles of rum is not as attractive as Disney make it out to be.* Just ask your girlfriend.

Scottish outfit Alestorm made a better fist of things, pulling the pseudo-genre from the brink of Mariana’s Trench with their own spin on ‘You Are a Pirate’ (from the BBC show Lazy Town) on last year’s Back Through Time. ‘You Are a Pirate’ is by no means the authoritative sea-plunderer’s manifesto – the only criterion it lays down is that “if you like to sail the sea, you are a pirate,” leading to the rather dubious conclusion that Simon LeBon is a pirate – but as far as pirate metal goes this is  about as innovative and forward-thinking as it’s ever going to get.

*None of the above applies to this badass motherfucker.

The press release for Wake up to the Waves – the first full-length album from Dublin electronic two-piece Last Days of 1984 – says the duo “are influenced by afro-beat, chill out music and tropical electronica.” To me, this seems like a rather long-winded and contrived way of saying “Animal Collective” but, hey, you know me. I’m all about getting to the point.

A couple of years ago when the indie media was collectively shitting itself over Merriweather Post Pavillion, I was literally (and by ‘literally’ I mean ‘figuratively’) swamped with PR for bands calling them the ‘next Animal Collective’ or some equally horrendous prospect. Before Animal Collective it was Radiohead. I don’t know who it is now, probably Azealia Banks or whatever number of photogenic, post-ironic blog bait douchebags it currently takes to suck Dilla’s dick.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to hear a band come along with such obvious smug indie douche credentials and make a conscious effort to downplay them and let people just judge for themselves. Yes, ‘River’s Edge’ sounds like Brian Rice and Darren Moloney spent their entire college experience listening to ‘My Girls’ on repeat and asking themselves just how do they DO that? But when the execution is so perfect and the result such a sweet, fluffy cloud of off-kilter Brian Wilsony pop, it’s hard not to laugh at the indie media’s myopic obsession with originality.

(For the record, the rest of the album does incorporate the aforementioned afrobeat and tropical…

Hi, my name’s Dave.

(Hi Dave!)

You may remember me from such adventures as: the last few years and generally stealthing around like a motherfucker while letting Jom take all the blame for the real shit that went down.

Last year, I counted in Christmas with 12 days of excellent (and some not so excellent, but topical) Christmas songs. I’d intended to reprise the series this year but, as one or two of you might have noticed, I’ve taken my leave from this place, and Christmas seems as good a time as any to say a formal goodbye and let you know I’m not going to be back.

I won’t patronise you all by saying it’s been a pleasure. Mederating Sputnik is a labour of love but it is hard and, ultimately, unrewarding work. I have had good times taking care of this place over the years, but I urge you to spare a thought for Trey, Jom and Chan. They do an incredible amount of work that you never see – every single instance of bullshit you pull falls squarely on their shoulders and quite frankly they’ve all got more important things in their lives.

Well, not Chan.

But seriously, I’d like to leave on a positive note. Sputnik is a great place to learn – it’s afforded me the tools to become a professional writer and I’m sure I won’t be the only one. Sputnik was built on a sense of community and…

Belfast punk trio Empty Lungs have been knocking around for about a year now and ‘Identity Lost’ is their first formal release, a three-track single produced by Rocky O’Reilly (of the late, great Oppenheimer).

The band cite Jawbreaker and Hot Water Music among their major influences, but the one that springs immediately to mind is Rancid, particularly in the way lead vocalist Kev Jones and wingman Ryan Holmes trade off vocal lines on ‘Hope and Apathy.’ The title track is more of the same with a thumping bassline and scratchy chord riff that call to mind Gang of Four at their most catchy.

The entire three-track single will set you back two of your Great British pounds on Bandcamp. Check out the video for ‘Identity Lost’ below the player.

Anybody who’s known me for more than five minutes knows that I have a bit of a hard on for Irish music (I run a blog exclusively devoted to the stuff here) and those who’ve known me a little longer know that I have a special place in my heart for Irish hip hop, which is nothing like the oxymoron that it initially appears.

Ireland has been producing underappreciated rap for years, going back to the innovative trip hop of Marxman through Scary Eire and modern acts like Messiah J & the Expert, the Infomatics and Melodica Deathship. Unfortunately, the general view of Irish rap is dominated by half-baked acts like House of Pain (though some of Everlast’s solo output is legit) and… well I don’t even know what the fuck this is but it needs to be fucking put down immediately.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Actually Exhibit B is kind of cool but that picture is unforgivable. And I don’t remember Kevin Costner bullying a troll with a fish. Dude was just minding his own business under a tree. Fuck’s sake lads, get it together.

‘Robin Hood’ appears on Edguy’s new album, Age of the Joker, which is scheduled for release on August 26 a.k.a. tomorrow.

Green Day performed a new song entitled ‘Amy,’ presumably written in tribute to Amy Winehouse, at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, California last week. The band performed 15 new tracks in total at the gig in aid of cystic fibrosis.

The band also posted the lyrics for ‘Amy’ on their website:

Amy
Is your heart singing out of tune
Are your eyes just singing the blues
Dirty records from another time
Some blood stains on your shoes
No one really knows about your soul
And I barely even know your name
Burning rhythms and posting lies
For a bunch of fools drown in shame
Amy don’t you go
I want you around
Singin’ woah please don’t go
Do you wanna be a friend of mine?
Did you tattoo a lucky charm
To keep you out of harms way?
Warding off all evil signs
But it never really kept you safe
You’re too young for the golden age
Cause the record bin’s been replaced
27 gone without a trace
And you walked away from your drink
Is your heart singing out of tune
Are you eyes just singing the blues?
Dirty records from another time
Some blood stains on your shoes
May I have this last dance
By chance if we should meet?
Can you write me a lullaby?
So we can sing you to sleep

This one’s a bit unexpected: London rapper Sway freestyling over Ed Sheeran’s ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.’ Sheeran’s original is easily described as a sort of an English take on Jason Mraz (I’m more a fan of his cousin Laura), but Sway’s mix takes in a busy grime beat and a tongue-twisting lyric to give the track a completely different, much-improved feel.

Meanwhile, the lyrics – “next thing Slick Rick meets Chris from Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush” – are specific enough to alienate 95% of today’s UK hip hop audience, which is just as well since most of them are busy rioting at the minute.

Take a listen to an improvised live version of the original, here:

Here at Sputnik Towers, we get sent some pretty bad press releases.

Most of them are harmless enough – just things that nobody but the band and their immediate families would be interested in. A lot I’ll delete without reading. Some I’ll quietly seethe over for a while first. Hard rock bands tend to be the best at shamelessly taking advantage of natural disasters. New York indie bands tend to be the quickest to lash out an over-sincere cover version when a major musician dies. I thought I was immune to it at this point. Until today.

I know I’m basically doing the PR’s job for them here by reposting the press release verbatim. They might get mad at me for openly mocking their craft and refuse to send us stuff anymore. That would be a crying shame, because if they’ve got even one more release like this in their armoury then I might just actually explode, spraying litres and litres of hot, juicy amazoplasm all over the walls. I’ll be sure to put that one on Youtube.

Next week: Mikael Åkerfeldt exchanges emails with David Coverdale.

When Petrucci and James Unite

As a regular contributor to the LickLibraryAndy James is no stranger to hosting interviews with some of the best Rock & Metal guitar players in the world. Zakk WyldeGus G and Judas Priest are among those recently grilled by a man who is already hot on their tails for joining that very list.

In a short space of

TV on the Radio covered one of the greatest songs of all time, ‘Waiting Room’ by Fugazi, at the Pitchfork Festival over the weekend. Here’s a good-quality video of the performance, though it cuts out about halfway through.

It sounds more than a touch lightweight to me. Then again, my favourite part of the original is Ian MacKaye’s raspy vocal and Tunde Adebimpe’s shrill singing doesn’t really measure up in my eyes. Check out this live recording of Fugazi performing ‘Waiting Room’ and compare.

I rarely refer to press releases when writing about music: it’s bad practice and they rarely contain much information that’s useful to me anyway. Occasionally though, I’ll read a line that instantly hooks me, like this one:

HYMNSis a 2 piece atheist rock band comprising of Samuel Manville and Peter Reisner.

The phrase “atheist rock band” distills more or less all of my main interests into one manageable cocktail. What’s more, it’s the new project of Samuel Manville, the former frontman of tragically short-lived English math rockers Blakfish, who broke up last year just as I was getting into their music.

The three remaining members spun off to become &U&I, leaving Manville to team up with former SOS drummer Peter Reisner. †HYMNS† appear, superficially at least, to exist mainly for the purpose of poking fun at religion and promoting the godless lifestyle, both causes to which I will happily lend my support.

Their first release, a four-song live DVD, is scheduled for release on August 22 with a full-length album to follow in October. Here’s the video for the first studio recording, ‘A Punch to the Temple,’ a tight angular number with echoes of Modest Mouse and Nick Cave and a typically sardonic take on the politics of strangling people.

Hymns – A Punch To The Temple from Luke David Bather on Vimeo.

Apropos of yesterday’s finger-wagging blog, I should point it’s almost two years to the day since Thrice’s last album Beggars leaked almost three months before its scheduled release. Follow-up Major/Minor is penciled in for a September 20 release and has yet to leak – it’s almost as if leaks are bad for business!!

But no sooner have I opened that can of worms than I will slam it firmly shut.

For today saw the premiere of the delightfully-titled ‘Yellow Belly,’ the first single from Major/Minor. ‘Yellow Belly’ continues the group’s slide towards mainstream rock as featured on Beggars with more melody and lush layers, and less dissonance and abrasion.

As a lead single, it lacks the immediacy and distinctiveness of ‘All the World is Mad,’ opting instead for a Tom Morello-style stripped-down heavy metal riff. As the handy little Soundcloud visual demonstrates, it’s not a particular dynamic track, though the morose middle eight beginning around the 1:36 mark offers some degree of variety.

People like me will be hoping this is just fluff, and that the album proper veers more towards the Radiohead-inspired electronic tinkering of ‘Circles’ and ‘Doublespeak.’

Thrice – Yellow Belly by VagrantRecords

I know a lot of people around don’t believe me when I occasionally argue that leaks – and the culture whereby people think they’re entitled to all the free music they want – are bad for musicians so don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the head of a independent label that sinks all its money into promoting some of the most innovative hip hop and electronic music around.

It was with considerable disappointment that we learnt in the last week that two records we have been working on have been leaked, despite the use of watermarked CDs. Toddla T’s Watch Me Dance(Ninja Tune) and Thundercat’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) were both leaked from copies sent to the journalist Benjamin Jager at the offices of Backspin magazine in Germany.

The availability of these records online for free has meant a rush release of the digital version of Toddla’s record, which, after the years of work put in, will seriously affect the ability to make any kind of financial return from commercial release. No one at the magazine has yet taken responsibility for uploading these records to the internet, but until the situation is resolved, we will no longer be servicing Backspin with promo copies. It’s very hard for young, up and coming artists to make a living from their music. People uploading their music months before it is commercially available are not doing them any favours.

Everybody has their own views on how music should…

The greatest put-down… of all time.

via @owenpallett

“I not only offer great sex but best spots in parking lots / I’m handy and got swag so you know this ‘tard is hot.”

Look, argue all you want but you can’t argue with facts. Vagina ain’t handicapped.

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