Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
Let’s face it. Everything is changing. Perhaps everything has already changed. But then again, this would suggest that things have stopped changing, and that all is stagnant. This will never happen. Whether you like it or not, things are always changing. Sometimes for better. Other times, well, not so much. ’Tis zee vay of zee vorld. I have never quite understood the definition of the word "progress". I used to think it meant improvement, but now I realise it is more just simple evolution. To progress. To move forward. Not necessarily brilliant, but ultimately vital. I can’t explain why, but it is seemingly and apparently necessary as a civilisation, I think. Right now, we have the dawn of A.I., poking and teasing us like impatient demanders. I won’t go into this because I cannot bring myself to. The biggest change before that was undoubtedly the internet. A truly world-changing phenomenon. I think the first of these "modern" phenomena was electricity. It changed the world. It changed everything. The next big wave of movement - admittedly more of a cultural or societal nature - was possibly the liberation of youth in the 60s. They had power and money, for the first time. They were not tired from war, for they had never experienced it. To a certain extent, this changed a lot of the world. Our way of thinking changed. Younger people were taken seriously. And others who used to have status and respect were relegated to the old folk’s home at the grand old age of 48.
It was, I believe, the beginning of the modern way we know so well today. Out with the old, in with the new. Out with the log fires, in with the electric heater. Out with the mezzaluna, in with the blender. Out with the letters, in with the telephone. Out with the letters, in with the email. Out with the three-piece suits, in with the tracksuit. Out with the high street, in with Amazon. Out with the secretary, in with the dictaphone. Out with the secretary, back home later. You see, everything rises, and everything eventually falls, as it were. One thing takes the place of another. Right or wrong, good or bad, this is what happens. Every field has this. Take music, for example (as we musicians so often do). The guitar for centuries was an acoustic instrument, and usually a background instrument - Flamenco fans would argue… But after the thing was “plugged in”, it quite quickly came to the fore with jazz. But as soon as it was decided that distortion was not necessarily something to avoid, and that after amplification there was not much need for the curvy thing to be hollow, the electric guitar as we know it, was born. Without power, this would have been simply impossible. One major time of change, at least in music and fashion, was the closing of the 70s and the opening of the 80s. It was around this time that synthesisers and drum machines really took off. Giorgio Moroder had been WAY ahead with Donna Summer’s classic, I Feel Love (recorded in 1976). But it wasn’t until around 1978/79 that musicians with “real” instruments were being replaced with robots. You see, it’s all happened before. This new era of A.I. is not the first time we musicians and artists have been threatened into extinction. So may I first say this: don’t worry. At least, this is what I keep telling myself. Synthesisers and drum machines are things for artists to work with. Just like A.I. Whether we like it or not, we must move with the times. That is, if you want to stay current. You don’t have to at all, if you don’t want to. No army is going to rush into your home and confiscate your acoustic guitar. At least I hope not. Change these days is common. It is huge and often as stark a difference as flare to straight-leg, fringe to bald, and day to night. My only hope is that we cling on to some of the good we might have so casually tossed away for being “old”.
This week’s pick comes predominantly from Mar del Plata in Argentina, with a soupçon of Yorkshire pudding for good measure. All will be explained. In admiration of the best of what came out of 1978-1980, Arnoldo’s Lizards bring us the best of what so far has come out of 2023. And with true technological marvel, they manage to virtually teleport Wilko Wilkes both back in time and from the future, for it is he who reminds us what year it is. The Lizards launch back with their brand new single, Tonight, and it is PURE disco with an 80s twist. Okay, so impure disco then. It is slick, confident, and out there. There are hints of America (both North and South), England, and even French (for me, anyway), but it is just classic. This band always manages to make classic music. Not dated or retro (although there is an element of that), but simply a tune that surely must have always been around forever. Surely?! There is a richness and warmth. There is passion in their gut. Those synths, those insistent drums, the propulsion of Jack Dimensions’ incredible bass playing, and the satisfying mid-range of those guitars, but… BUT!! Alvare Goco’s voice. THIS is where it’s at. She may come across in interviews as sweet, cute or even shy, but on record, she is a diva. Not a single nerve is on show. It ain’t arrogance. She just knows what to do. And she knows she’s good. She was born to sing. This is like the best of Blondie mashed up with the best of ABBA, with a nod to Giorgio Moroder and even the entire soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. But having said all that, there is more energy than most songs of that era. This I think is the modern element Arnoldo’s Lizards always manage to bring to their music. And it’s vital. Otherwise there isn’t a lot of point in making music mainly from another era. They make it their own.
However, in the studio it was perhaps in their eyes not modern enough. It was then decided (along with mixing engineer and NAS legend, Andres Guazzelli) to bring in another NAS superstar, by the name of Wilko Wilkes - our attitude-ridden Yorkshire poet and rapper, in order to define this song as something more than something less. Not to throw out the old, but retain the best of it. Then to add the best of the new. It just makes sense. Why ditch one for the other, when one had so much to offer, and the other had so many flaws…? The best of both worlds is so obviously the best way to go. As is so often the case with artists from the New Artist Spotlight (whose 3rd birthday it is), this rap is something that shouldn’t work, but does. We at the NAS have a habit of breaking rules and making things work, where they shouldn’t. We’re stubborn like that. Wilko’s rap is his quintessential English style and fast fashion, while soft present synths perch on his shoulders, occasionally darting around like sparrows, as the beat bolsters and emphasises the new era. It is proof that there shouldn’t be barriers between various generations.
Everything about Tonight is professional. It is impeccable. Everything as it should be. Every moment thought about and considered. If a single section needed an injection of something, the needle was at the ready, at all times. Despite coming in at less than 3 minutes, this is exactly the way a song should be made. Just because something is short does not make it inferior, or of lesser note. One should put just as much effort with attention to detail into something of 3 minutes as something of 3 hours. “That’ll do” just doesn’t come into it. Sure, this attitude takes longer. Sure, it demands a lot more effort and consideration. But ultimately, if it could have been better, why wasn’t it? There is no excuse these days, what with the technology at our fingertips. A song should leave you satisfied, or needing to press play again. Every release should leave your home or studio with the personal knowledge that you have done your very best. Then it is up to the listener. There’s a lot of competition these days. Like, a LOT - new figure just in (thanks for the info, Ed Corrado): Spotify now releases 120,000 new tracks, per day. God. It’s oh-so easy to skip to something else. Don’t give them a reason to skip. In fact, it was Spotify’s own advertising campaign that both amused and appalled me: “Unlock the power of unlimited song skips, with Spotify Premium”… It’s like an admission that most of what they have to offer is utter crap, and that “believe me, you’ll need unlimited skipping”…! Tonight, DOES in fact make me want to skip. Unlimited skipping down the road like a gleeful child clutching a bag of sweeties. The good (and more healthy) kind of skipping. Arnoldo’s Lizards and Wilko Wilkes simply rise and rise again.
We used to have the old in-out. Now we have the new out-in. “If it ain’t broke…” - replace it anyway. It’s called progress.
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