Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lush. Superblast! (1992).

Working on
my own songs recently has led me to revisit bands whose sound has influenced what I like about Pop music. Prime among those would be the British band, Lush.

They didn't really take off in the States until their third album, Lovelife (1996), by which time they had embraced a trendier Britpop sound, and I had started to lose interest. They effectively broke up soon after that with the tragic suicide of their drummer, Chris Acland, although it took a year and a half of mourning before they could even announce that they had quit as a group.

Their first album, Spooky (1992), reached #7 on the British charts, and includes one of my favorite tracks of theirs, appropriately titled, "Superblast." It epitomizes their appeal for me: icy cool vocals, and radiant layers of distorted guitars strummed in shimmering harmony:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Faye Wong. Fu Zao (1996).

Faye Wong is a legendary C-pop diva, songwriter, actress, and model. Beloved by fans who call themselves "Fayenatics," she has sold almost 10 million albums, and is wildly popular across China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Her name is often preceded by the designation, tiānhòu , meaning Heavenly Queen. She has been attuned to and influenced by Western music, and names Cocteau Twins as one of her all time favorite bands.

Fu Zao, Faye was ready to take artistic risks, resulting in one of her more experimental albums. It remains Faye's personal favorite, however her audience in Hong Kong and Taiwan were not so receptive of its style. The Fayenatics loved it and made it a cult hit. On Fu Zao, Faye actually collaborated with Cocteau Twins, as they wrote two of its tracks for her just prior to the breakup of the band. Subsequently, Robin and Simon of the C. Twins continued to write for Faye.

It is evident that Faye pays homage to Cocteau Twins throughout this CD. We can hear the arpeggiated guitar parts through delay lines, the flat planes of sustained harmony, the simple drum loops, and the abrupt endings associated with the revered Scottish trio. Faye even mimics the vocal mannerisms of Elizabeth Frasier, not an easy task to accomplish. Although the C. Twins' overall approach to sound is iconic, and highly influential, I can't think of anyone else who's ever dared to attempt to emulate Frasier's beautiful, but eccentric, style of warbling. The two songs actually written by Cocteau Twins, track 4, "Fracture," and 8, "Repressing Happiness," fit right in with Wong's originals. In fact, if forced to guess, you might fail to surmise exactly who wrote what, although "Fracture" does kind of stand out as having greater depth compared to the other tracks. Myself, I would bet "Repressing Happiness" was a Faye tune, and "Decadence" would be by the Twins - I would be so wrong.