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albums - current and forthcoming releases...                         [page 16]

late November/  December 2002

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Badly Drawn Boy
Johnny Cash
Mic Christopher
The Church
Elf Power
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lee Hazlewood
Lemon Jelly
Lime Spiders
Mountain Goats
Neva Dinova
The Please
The Sights
Siouxsie & Banshees
Sum 41
Various Fortuna Pop
The Venue
AQUALUNG Strange and Beautiful (B-Unique)
aqualung (2836 bytes)Okay....Im sure its been said before.....but I have to win the award for stating the bleedin' obvious after listening to Matt Hales debut album.  This lad writes and sings like Thom Yorke. Period. Well, ok, more like Thom Yorke before he decided to investigate his own botty and disappeared up it after sneezing violently. Sorry had to be said.   Listening to this album after the startling and haunting song from the Beetle ad, 'Strange and Beautiful', I was wondering if the classically trained musician could back it up with more of the same. Oh yes, he's done that....but all from the same blueprint. This is a quiet album, with quiet songs, and this can cause monotony to set in if there isnt enough variety.

The album kicks off with the aforementioned title track, but then seems to settle into a bit of a rut, same voice, same music, different lyrics (with the exception of 'Good Times Gonna Come' with a guitar replacing the piano). Thankfully this nose dive is avoided with 'Tongue Tied' and 'Cant Get you Out of My Head' (not a homage to Kylie sadly), which are both elegant, and sincere songs, where Mr Hales voice lifts rather than whines. We trundle towards the inevitable click of the CD stop button with a troup of slightly unexceptional tracks 'Nowhere' and 'Halfway to the Bottom', diverting slightly with the wistful ballad 'Gentle'.   Fragile, earnest and lovelorn, its still a tad disappointing, with its main problem being its variation-on-a-theme slant...the formula is almost there, but sadly the secret ingredient is still missing.

Reviewed by Adam M
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You can usually rely on 4AD to exert reasonable quality control and this starts off in promising style with the delicate, downbeat folk of the title track, and the speedier First Few Desperate Hours.  As the record goes on however the songs start to get quirkier (although thankfully never making it as far as wacky), towards the sort of college sound of the Violent Femmes.  As such it’s a decent example what I think of as classic modern American songwriting, with a few neat turns of phrase, without feeling especially new or inspiring.  This isn’t helped by the fact that the nasal, staccato vocal begins to pall after 6 or 7 songs and love being both like a cyclone in a swamp and the border between Greece and Albania (on International Small Arms Traffic Blues) does seem to be pushing it a bit.  Still, if you like slightly clever-clever US country rock you could do much worse.

Reviewed by Matthew H
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THE SONICS Psycho-Sonic (Big Beat)

sonics psycho-sonics (5689 bytes)A reissue of a compilation first released in 1993, this takes you as far through the history of the Sonics (29 tracks from 1964-65) that most reasonably sane garagehounds could want.  The Sonics describe themselves perfectly on the sleeve: “three chords, two tracks and one hell of a band”.  “Two tracks” is harsh but there are two pretty clear styles.  The first is the cover versions, most of which are penned or first performed by black artists – maybe they were the most independent, mould-breaking and threatening musicians of their time.  Check out stunning versions of Walking The Dog and Keep A Knockin’ not to mention the eternal Louie Louie.

And then there are the Sonics’ own compositions, all driving guitar, sinister saxophone and snotty vocals, about as punk rock as anyone could get.  Their songs are dirty rock, with shades of sunglasses at night and cigarettes burns in bedclothes.  Witch is a concrete-gargled warning about a woman (“she’s gonna make you itch”);  Psycho is pure psychotic, libidinous teenpop, a love song for a permanently erect teenager.   Strychnine should be on heavy rotation in the Munsters’ house: “some folks like water, some folks like wine, but I love the taste of neat strychnine”, with dead-waking screams and shagtastic piano and guitars.  The whole thing sounds distorted and gritty with Jerry Roslie’s raw vocals mercilessly savaging the songs.   

If you’re been infected by the new rock ‘n’ roll, and you’re looking for the Patient Zero of rock with attitude, or maybe you’re thinking about what the Rolling Stones might had become if they’d been stuck in snooker halls rather than make-up chairs, or you just want to hear music played with passion and abandon, with no thought for second takes, overdubs, or even posterity, The Sonics are the one true righteous rock ‘n’ roll band. 

Reviewed by Ged
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JOHNNY CASH  American IV: The Man Comes Around (American)

Johnny Cash’s American albums, with their mix of back catalogue, old classics and covers of contemporary have opened his music up to a new audience.  But this is no Tom Jones exercise in vampiric career prolongation.   More than most the records capture the sheer joy in making music, albeit through often sombre songs.  Mr Cash makes all of them his own, his still full and sonorous voice lending depth and feeling to most of what it touches.  This latest instalment follows the template of the others.  Top of the pile is Cash’s own song, the title track, an ominous account of the Revelation.  Other standouts include delicate versions of Trent Reznor’s Hurt and Ewan MacColl’s First time I ever saw your face and inspiring new heights of vocal ability from Nick Cave in a duet on Hank Williams’ I’m so lonesome I could cry.  Even the corniest choices, Danny Boy and We’ll meet again work – the latter with a country style spoken word and family chorus that only the stoniest of hearts could fail to enjoy.  He even manages not to ruin In my life.  But not everything works entirely.  Picking a Sting song was never likely to be a popular choice in these parts, and although the tale of a man accidentally shooting his brother initially seems to be archetypally Cash, it lacks the revelation of guilt at the end.  And the earthiness which Cash invests the songs sits very uncomfortably on Bridge over troubled water, though that might just be the old hippy in me.  These are minor quibbles though with another excellent record from a man who rather than attempt to recapture his youth, revels in his age and experience and expertly brings them to bear on others’ songs.

Reviewed by Matthew H
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MIC CHRISTOPHER Skylarkin' (Loza Records)

You probably won't have heard of Mic Christopher before. Not that many have, really- and it's a pity, because they're most certainly missing out. So let me tell you a bit about the story of Mic, for it's quite a sad one. The singer-songwriter - formerly of Irish stalwarts The Mary Janes, who enjoyed moderate success during the 90's in Ireland - was on tour supporting The Waterboys last year, when he fell down some steps in Amsterdam, slipped into a coma and died shortly afterwards. He had enjoyed a kind of cult following in Ireland, gigging regularly and at the time of his death, had been working on his debut album - that is, Skylarkin'. Having had just an EP to his name (entitled Heyday) his family and fans thought it important that Mic should have his dream of a solo album realised and completed work on Skylarkin'. The end product: an achingly beautiful album that belongs in the CD collection of anyone who likes folky, acoustically based singer-songwriters.  

Reviewed by Lauren M
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NEVA DINOVA Neva Dinova (crank! A Record Company)

Neva Dinova was formed in Omaha, Nebraska in ‘92 and comprises founder members Jake Bellows (guitar and vocals) and Heath Koontz (bass), along with Mike Kratky and Tim Haes (guitars) and drummer Bo Anderson.  They’ve spent the last decade knocking around as a local band, but now things are hotting up; this year they released this, their debut album, and they’ve bagged themselves a support slot on an East Coast tour in January .

This is one of those airy, melancholic indie albums the US seem to have a penchant for, with dreamy Chris Martin crossed with Thom Yorke-like vocals, but this one benefits from some intelligent (and funny) lyrics and a 3-pronged guitar attack that adds muscle to some of the songs.  Opener The Tin Man sounds like mellow Coldplay, Dances Fantastic is even mellower at the start, haunting, ambient, with some great lyrics: ‘broke my heart and out poured oil, I don’t want that kind of goil’ and ‘she dances fantastic, with legs like elastic’. The tempo picks up and the song turns into a slow burning rocker with the guitars taking over for the last couple of minutes.  It’s Worse When You’re Young is perky and similar to Coldplay again but with fuzzy guitars. 

In amongst the more standard songs are Brooklyn, a tale of obsessional love with a country edge, At Least The Pain Is Real which has a white reggae feel in places and rocks out in others, and Lucifer’s Lament with its slow jazzy vibe; you can imagine this one being played in a smoky basement club.  And Bellows plays the saw.  How often do ya get an album with a saw?  Of course there is some chaff among the wheat; the spacey, sparse Did You Disappoint Your God? is way overlong.  All in all it’s not a bad debut but would have been a damn site more impressive if it hadn’t been from a band that’s been honing its craft for 10 years.

Reviewed by Graham S
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siouxsie best of (4537 bytes)If Janet Susan Dallion had, in 1976, chosen to call herself Suzie Slut, Tina Terrible or another media-friendly alias things may have been very different. Saturday night telly would be full of I Love Tina Terrible premature nostalgia shows featuring Z list celebs talking about how things were (and inevitably ending every sentence with the phrase "what was that all about?"), women’s magazines would contain imaginatively titled articles like Tina’s Not So Terrible Any More, and Ms Dallion would find herself alongside Mr Lydon on the Greatest Britons list. As it is, the unsensational Siouxsie and the Banshees are relatively low on the fame scale despite being the most successful punk band ever.

The first problem here is the number of tracks – just fifteen. In this 74 minute CD age were are accustomed to expecting our money’s worth but this runs for just 57 minutes. Why not fit on another four or five tracks, like other compilations would? Then there’s the selection of tracks. For a start, the album is bookended by cover versions. Admittedly, one of them is the band’s brilliant take on Dear Prudence – actually an improvement on The Beatle’s original – but the very fact that the opening track is a cover shows a cynical disregard by the compilers for the band’s song writing talent. But it gets worse. Classic tracks like the early belter Playground Twist and the dramatic orchestral masterpiece Overground are absent whilst the abysmal This Wheel’s On Fire (one of the worst cover versions ever to be released) is included. My only explanation is that the compilers, having witnessed the success of the recent ‘Number 1’ compilations from The Beatles and Elvis, based their selections purely on chart positions culled from their Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.

That said, the album is still high quality. Aside from ‘This Wheel…’ and the token new track Dizzy, which is pleasantly laid-back but unmemorable, there are no dull moments. From the perfect punk of Hong Kong Garden through to sweet melodies of tracks like Kiss Them For Me, we are shown just what a great band is capable of producing.  However, put simply, this fails to fulfil the definition ‘Best Of’. Once Upon a Time and Twice Upon a Time, the previous collections, are far more comprehensive.  This has no more respect for its target audience than the worst tabloid newspaper. If you have never heard Siouxsie and The Banshees before I insist that you buy one of their albums. Just don’t make it this one.

[Initial quantities contain a remix album. Most mixes are mainly from the days when the term just meant a longer version of a song and the tracks that do offer more in the way of experimentation are only worth of a listen for curiosity value.]

Reviewed by Alex M
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VARIOUS ARTISTS A Christmas Gift from Fortuna Pop! Volume 2 (Fortuna Pop!)

It’s the C86/indie remedy for the nausea-inducing niceness of Last Christmas (heard last Christmas, this Christmas and every Christmas to come until Santa impregnates the Christmas fairy and elves reveal details of Boxing Day sex ‘n’ coke orgies at the North Pole) and Wonderful Christmastime.    Fortuna Pop! knows that the true spirit of Christmas is a Snowball with a Baileys chaser and the sound of Christmas is dad retching on Christmas evening as gran indulges in sprout-induced windiness in front of the TV. 

The star attraction of this compilation is The Loves’ claustrophobic version of Cold Turkey, whose cotton wool production and throbbing bass is just perfect for a tale of comedown.  This is the track you’ll return to again and again.  Little Donkey is Bearsuit pissing in the crib by bolting on various instruments and treated voices to a skeleton of recorders.  Slight but fun.  Discordia’s Boxing Day Blues is anything but, a slice of electronic Philadelphia soul that raises the spirits.  Mark 700 uses loops and samples, with a fat lady singing ‘Silent Night’; one for the down side of Christmas when goodwill to all men is in short supply.  To show seasonal willing, Tender Trap add bells to the end of a bouncy Frankincense and Myrrh, with its lovely melody and hint of ‘Wonderwall’ in the chorus.  By contrast, Homescience pile on the sleighbells and snow references in a Wombles meeting the Beach Boys moment on (Drive a…) Snowplough Through Your Heart.  It’s the one song here to catch that traditional Christmas song spirit. 

At a fiver, it’s a third of the price of some crappy Now Christmas compilation and will still be playable a week after Chrimbo and, for the Loves alone, it’s an essential purchase.  Now, be off and wrap those slippers.    

Reviewed by Ged M
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THE PLEASE One Piece From the Middle (Own Label)

Since this album was pressed the band have changed their name to the Pleased due to there being a similarly named band in NYC.  They are a five piece from San Francisco and this their debut album, is self-financed by choice and only available at their gigs.  But don’t read in that that this is some ropey old piece of cack that no label would touch with a greasy palm.  Far from it, this is a brilliant fourteen track accompaniment to their wonderful live show.   They may be west coasters but this is more of an NYC sound, albeit one with more than half an ear to early 80s Britpop and coincidentally one of the band members is English.  It’s full of chopped and jangly rhythms, deep brooding basslines and staccato snare.   Most of the songs build slowly, light waves of aural beauty lapping at your lugholes, teasing your lobes and then ending just as you were hoping there’d be another minute to go.  Abruptly.

At different times it reminds of Sonic Youth, early The Cure, The Velvet Underground, The Only Ones, The Smiths and inevitably, courtesy of Noah’s Casablanca style vocals, The Strokes.  Most of the tracks would make great singles but Another Disaster is near perfect.  It’ll be a shame if the backlash in some sections of the media against the Strokes works against the Pleased because the tunes are too good for that.  Equally if the album remains undiscovered through lack of opportunities to hear it, it would be a crying shame because this really is very very good.  

Reviewed by Paul M
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SUM 41 Does This Look Infected? (Mercury)

sum 41 infected (8340 bytes)The spiky-topped Canadian quartet blast back with their third album.  Ever the epitome of good taste the cover artwork sees the band made up as zombies while their upcoming jaunt round the nation’s arenas is known as the ‘sum on your face tour’.  They made their name playing metal-tinged pop-punk, and while that’s still here, the metal influences are coming to the fore.  This album is faster, harder and (don’t giggle) more mature.   Bet you never thought you’d see the words Sum 41 and mature in the same sentence.  Well, don’t panic, they can still be pretty infantile, but along with the poo-flinging and skateboarding they’ve developed a bit more of a social awareness; check out My Direction - ‘In the last 30 years teenage suicide has increased 300% in North America, it is the second major cause of death in Canada’.

After the sound of someone gobbing, the album opens in fine style with The Hell-Song and Over My Head (Better Off Dead), both blistering mixes of The Offspring and Green Day.   First single Still Waiting is Offspring with a dash of Judas Priest and Metallica circa ‘Master of Puppets’, while A.N.I.C. is 37 seconds of thrash.  All Messed Up nicks the intro from Blink 182’s Rock Show and at around 1.50 goes into a speeded up version of the instrumental bit of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again just before the Daltrey scream.  Mr. Amsterdam and Thanks For Nothing both have some huge dollops of Metallica, sudden tempo changes and all. 

While this album shouldn’t alienate the band’s fans (there are still enough poppy punk moments) there has been a considerable move to heavy metal/hardcore with guitar breaks galore.  The UK version of the album includes two bonus tracks played by Sum 41’s HM alter-egos Pain for Pleasure; the first is second rate Motley Crue (yes, it’s that bad, but played for laughs) while WWVII Parts 1 & 2 is Iron Maiden’s The Trooper.  There’s a bonus DVD featuring a short (unfunny) ‘documentary’ on Pain for Pleasure’s comeback plus the vids for Fat Lip (on the last album anyway) and In Too Deep.  Alas the video for Still Waiting with the band being told that to make it they need to be a ‘the’ band – The Sums – is conspicuous by it’s absence.  Still, the main thing here is the CD which sees a much improved band, musically and lyrically, belting out an album of great songs.  Time to take them a bit more seriously.      

Reviewed by Graham S
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THE SIGHTS Got What I Want (Sweet Nothing)

For a single CD, this is an album of two sides.  The first Sights are a pure power pop band, taking their influences from Big Star, the Zombies and The Beatles.  Don’t Want You Back is a perfect example: fantastic melody and sweet keyboard sounds, becoming almost glam rock at the close.  Everyone’s a Poet is pure Zombies honeycombed pop with the addition of a stunning soulful bassline.   Sweet Little Woman has a title like a Chocolate Watch Band song and sounds like a newly discovered outtake from Nuggets, manic keyboards backing some fuzzed out guitar. 

But there’s this other side to the Sights too, a fondness for some of the rockier moments of the 70s.  As a Detroit band (the album was recorded at Ghetto Recorders by Jim Diamond, form-watchers), you’d expect the Stooges and MC5 influences but blues-rock (early ZZ Top perhaps) comes out strongly on Sick and Tired (a real stoner anthem) and Nobody.  As you listen, new sounds swim into view: there’s a lot of Soul behind the album and it’s got this Southern boogie sound too.  It’s obvious that Eddie Baranek, who released his first album in 1999 at the age of 18 (this is his second), has a sackful of influences spanning a good deal of American musical history.  But though the Sights’ influences are classic, they’re making a very contemporary sound.   For fans of Supergrass or the Von Bondies, The Sights will tickle your walnut, while Last Chance wouldn’t be out of place on the Datsuns’ album.   If you want classic rock moves delivered by people with more modern standards of cleanliness, if you want an album with guitars but without spandex trousered soloists, if you want classic references that won’t embarrass you, this album’s a contender. 

Reviewed by Ged M
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LEMON JELLY Lost Horizons (XL Recordings)

lemon jelly lost horizon (7606 bytes)Sitting here in my conservatory, sipping tea, looking out at the clear blue skies, the rolling hills, and the laughing children playing on the garden swings, I feel life is good. Well...ok..Im actually stuffed in my study, its raining its arse off, and Ive got a hangover, but just listening to Lemon Jelly's new album, Lost Horizons, Ive found a means of escapism. Nick Franglin and Fred Deakin, those alchemists of cute, magicians of mirth and sorcerers of all things sweet have followed up their massive LemonJelly.KY EP with another jamboree bag of goodly goodies. The flavours this time are as varied as with their last release, and if you like sweet, you're laughing.

Tracks such as Space Walk, with its grin inducing enthusiasm and wide eyed innocence and Nice Weather For Ducks with its Pathe voice intro and nursery rhyme theme tune, are exactly what was hoped for from these guys.  That's not to say its all too sickly... Experiment Number Six, sounding like a field surgeons drug experience, is sinister whilst remaining whimsical, and Return to Patagonia is like a bustling train journey, replete with lazy sax's and jarring samples. Other flavours such as Ramblin' Man with its old duffer voice over (courtesy of the RSC actor, John Standing) and location name dropping complements nicely.

The remaining tracks, Elements, Closer and The Curse of Ka'Zar are all worthy album tracks, but I do wish they'd included the track Pushy, which was on the Space Walk single.that would have completed my image of Cinema Paradiso meets P'Tang Yang Kipperbang.but that's just me being greedy.

Overall a superb album, and proving that Lemon Jelly are not just another downtempo chill band who can be tagged along with Moby, Air and Kinobe.they are distinctly original, and the ultimate perfectionists (the album artwork is gloriously apt, the track Experiment Number Six timestamp voice over is synched exactly with the track counter, and the album clocks in at precisely one hour). Heaven knows what these whimsical charmsters are going to conjure up next..but you can guarantee that it'll be a better place to be.

Reviewed by Adam M
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BADLY DRAWN BOY Have You Fed the Fish? (Twisted Nerve)

badly drawn boy fish (9375 bytes)After following up Mercury Music Prize-winning debut “The Hour Of Bewilderbeast” with the more polished, mainstream soundtrack to Nick Hornby film “About A Boy”, many of Gough’s fans from the early lo-fi days have been hoping that “proper” second album “Have You Fed The Fish?” would be a return to hearfelt folk and amateurish electronica. They’re gonna be in for a disappointment, as “Have You Fed The Fish” seems to show Gough trying harder for mainstream acceptance. 

The title track couldn’t be more different from debut album opener, “The Shining”. Here is Gough’s Springsteen obsession finally brought to life. An overblown rock number that could be written-off as a silly throwaway, “Have You Fed The Fish” in fact sums up this entire album. Granted, its something of a cliché  for your third album to be about the pressures of finding sudden fame, but for Gough its slightly different, as “The Hour Of Bewilderbeast” came out in his early thirties. He now has two children, making the differences between domestic life and keeping the Badly Drawn Boy persona in the public eye an interesting concept for an album, particularly from such a gifted lyricist. 

Quite frankly, “Have You Fed The Fish?” contains some of the wittiest lyrics in a British album since “The Queen Is Dead”, particularly in “40 Days, 40 Fights”, and amusing lyrics are made all the more effective when combined with pathos in the song of the year, “You Were Right”. If ever a song was to sum Badly Drawn Boy up, this is the one. Funny, sad and uplifting, every line is absolute magic. The only thing stopping “You Were Right” being perfect is the production. In this song’s case, perhaps the critics are right, maybe it’s just a little too polished. The brief instrumental, “Centrepeace”, is the most understated track on the album, and one of the most impressive. Woozy strings sweep by over a clumsy, yet gorgeous tune that is all too short. 

The other highlight of the album has to be “How?”, a tune which starts  as an introspective ballad before moving to an uptempo rock chorus, and sounding a little like “Once Around The Block” in between. “How can I give you the answers I need/When all I possess is a melody?”, Gough asks. In songs like this, all we need is the melodies, we’ll look for answers later. To prove that he is still willing to experiment, Gough gives us “Using Our Feet”, an example of Talking Heads/David Bowie white-boy funk that, surprisingly, works. Perhaps a little harder to stomach is the music-hall of “Tickets To What You Need”.

It is perhaps a little too early to compare “Have You Fed The Fish” to Badly Drawn Boy’s earlier albums, as both took their time to bury themselves into the listeners consciousness. Some people may accuse him of burn-out, or that the domestic life has dampened his creative fire. Others may congratulate him on trying styles he isn’t known for. But whatever your opinion, it looks as though the woolly hat and beard are gonna be around for some time to come.

Reviewed by Robert B
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SWEATMASTER Sharp Cut (Must Destroy Records)

Finland’s Sweatmaster display influences from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin to the Sonics and 60s garagebands and go into the ring with The Hives, the Strokes and the White Stripes.  That’s right, it’s top flight competition but, then, they’re a top notch rock ‘n’ roll band.  As a three-piece, they fill the space between the component parts with hollering vocals, sometimes Robert Plant, sometimes Otis Redding sounding, simple, repetitive and brain-melting guitar riffs and drums with a beat so primitive you’d think the drummer is thumping dinosaur eggs with a pair of t-rex thighbones.  The result is a controlled nuclear explosion of sound, sensuality and power, a perfect and inspiring garage record.  The single I am a Demon and I Love Rock and Roll is a standout: it kicks off with a glam rock beat and erupts into pummelled piano and superspeed guitar riffing, while the way Sasu Mykkånen rolls his r’s in the phrase “..and I love rrrrrrock and rrrrrroll” makes the song ever more of a groin-thrusting gem.  

With the exception of two songs that just about break three minutes, this is a set of classic short songs; no time to muse on the tune, there’s another screamer on its tail.   Short Note has a 60s Music Machine double-take rhythm; Wanna See It Done is all Sonics-type energy and speed.  Well Connected captures all the power and wailing soulfulness of Thin Lizzy in less than two minutes.  People is the longest (3:12”!) and most complex track; over a Yardbirds riff that Jack White would kill to have knocked up, Sasu delivers a passionate and bluesy vocal, leading into their most melodic 60s flavoured chorus.  The songs make it impossible to stand or sit still; as they sing on Short Note: “don’t think too hard/ it’s a simple thing” and the advice is well made: agitate, don’t vegetate!

Review by Ged M
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ELF POWER Nothing’s Going To Happen (Orange Twin Records)

This is an album of cover versions recorded in 2002, plus the Come On EP which was only available on their 1998 tour.  It’s a pretty personal choice, so the sleevenotes suggest, of Andrew Riegert.  It’s also eclectic, revealing a pretty tasteful record collection, from T-Rex to the Jesus and Mary Chain, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Robyn Hitchcock and the Buzzcocks.  

Shadows in Vain is pre-electronic Tubeway Army and works well.  Andrew Rieger’s voice is as otherworldly in its own way as Gary Numan’s and the song is heavy, in a Knack-type way.  Weird on the Avenue (The Frogs) is a lovely short ballad, just voice and acoustic guitar, about the piercing/tattooing/bondage set (“not only cavemen enjoy pulling hair”).   That walk on the wilder side is backed up by covers of Bad Brains’ Pay to Cum and The Misfits. Elf Power get it exactly right in covering the melancholy and melodic Never Talking to You Again by Husker Du and observing that Grant Hart could write a great song (check out his 2541 if you want further proof).   Why Can’t I Touch It is a Riegert favourite and is a perfect indie-dance song in the best bass-heavy Stone Roses sense.

There are three Roky Erickson songs.  I Walked with a Zombie strips the song of it’s b-movie horror connotations and turns it into a ‘Starry Eyes’ type ballad while Unforced Peace is a moving and tender peace/love song, perfectly underscored by wonderful cello.   Marc Bolan’s elfin charm reads across very well on Hot Love.  Pick of the tracks are the version of Nothing’s Going to Happen (The Tall Dwarfs) with its catchy 70s charm and strings/“shoop-a-la-la” chorus, and the wonderful Cotton Crown (Sonic Youth) with its off kilter strings and unnerving vocals.  There’s not a lot to add to Upside Down or Listening to the Higsons (no-one outweirds Robyn!) so maybe they should have left them alone but that’s 2 from 16.  Actually it’s 17: there’s a bonus cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog, in which the apocalypse comes early and the drummer commits GBH on his drums.    

As a collection, it’s fun without being absolutely essential, a glimpse into a cool record collection and, best of all, proceeds from Orange Twin Recordings go into conservation in Athens, Ga.  Fun and worthy – what more is there? 

Review by Ged M
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LEE HAZLEWOOD These boots are made for walkin’ – the complete MGM recordings () 

This retrospective of Lee Hazlewood’s late 60’s ouput does little to hint at why it’s quite now that he’s enjoyed a renaissance, on the back of two excellent City Slang releases, including a tribute featuring the likes of Jarvis Cocker and the Tindersticks. But it’s highly welcome for those of us who weren’t born then, establishing him as a member of a North American male songwriting trinity of the era, alongside the bleaker Leonard Cohen and the madder Scott Walker.

Given the list of his admirers it comes as no surprise that this double CD is chock full of luscious 60’s croon pop, albeit with a country and western edge and thus tinged with sadness and strife.  The majority are songs that belong striding round a house party, clad in a purple shirt and neckerchief, clicking their Cuban heels and drawing on a Sobranie.  In fact on these, replete with elegant strings and tinkling piano, he sounds like an American Serge Gainsbourg (in case you’re wondering, this is a good thing).  While Hazlewood eschews Gainsbourg’s scatological excesses, he serves up a similar self-mocking reflection on the swinging-sixties lifestyle from the point of view of an already faded youth.  When he tells of how his philandering makes his girl cry, Hazlewood inevitably ends up on the receiving end, sobbing as she does the same.  The other songs provide a cool cowboy, semi-spoken drawl, to go with his droopy ‘tache, grizzly blues (with a strange tendency on the second CD to employ the Cookie Monster on backing vocals) or occasionally a bit of stripped down folk.  The apogee of these is of course the title track, transformed here into a valedictory comment on its own success for Nancy Sinatra.  As with any complete collection, there are a few ropier moments that might have been respectfully cut from a “best of…”, but it would be foolish to quibble.  If you like your pop slick, cool and ironic, buy this for your mum and dad for Christmas.  Then nick it.

Reviewed by Matt H
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PULP Hits (Universal)

pulp hits (7493 bytes)These are dark days for fans of those bands that first found success in the mid-nineties, under the banner Britpop. Bland, sugary, faceless pap rules the chats once again. Suede’s new album flopped. Oasis are resigned to producing pale imitations of pale imitations. Blur have made the big mistake of sacking Graham Coxon and hiring Norman Cook for a "new" dance direction.  And now Pulp, the wittiest, most interesting of the kings of Britpop have released this, admitting that it just may be their swansong.   Long-time fans don’t like this, its one thing for Jarvis to appear on BT ads, but how could an intelligent band like Pulp, who always did their own thing, stoop so low as to bring out a Greatest Hits album in time for Xmas?  To get out of their contract with Universal, that’s why.

Anyway, all the great artists have greatest hits albums, why shouldn’t Pulp?  After reliving their glory days through this CD, its clear there’s no reason whatsoever. After striving for years for some sort of acceptance, Pulp finally came into their own upon signing to Island. The first few singles, "Babies", "Lipgloss", "Do You Remember The First Time?" are still as fantastic now as they were then. Seedy tales of the love lives of seemingly normal folk attached to fantastic songs. Anyone who doesn’t own a copy of "His ‘n’ Hers" should get a copy now. And then have sex to it. The singles from "Different Class" bring with them a sense of sad nostalgia now, reminiscent of a time when the weeds and mis-shapes were briefly on top, when Jarvis could show his arse on stage with Michael Jackson and be hailed a hero by the press. Jarvis maybe went too far with the fame thing for a while, but he bloody deserved to, and how good was it to have an original, intelligent, funny pop star on the TV? "Common People" is still perhaps THE pop song of the nineties, the quintessential Pulp song whether Candida hates it or not. Seeing "Sorted For E’s And Wizz" performed at Glastonbury on Channel 4 changed my life.

Then, after Russell Senior’s departure (still sorely missed by some) and the post-fame comedown, came "This Is Hardcore". A bit of a shock after the last two albums, "Hardcore" took a while to grow. Finding that fame seemed to have changed Cocker for the worse initially made this uneasy listening.   However, the singles were as impressive as ever, and the fact they didn’t sell is quite frankly, not Pulp’s problem. The title track is magnificent and was a very brave choice for single, the culmination of Cocker’s dirtiest, most sexually depraved and desperate thoughts, building to a searing, unforgettable climax. "Oh this is hardcore, there is no way back for you, oh this is hardcore, this is me on top of you, and I can’t believe that it took me this long." "A Little Soul" is a touching tune showing Jarvis’ concerns for following in his fathers footsteps, and "Party Hard" an impressive nod to Bowie, containing the classic line, "Why do we have to half kill ourselves, just to prove we’re alive?". So bloody true.

By 2001, Pulp seemed to have found a comfortable halfway house between the commercial and the artistic, turning their back on the sordid tales of city life, they embraced nature, but not in an over-the-top, tree-hugging hippy way. "We Love Life" is an acceptance that people fuck up, but that ultimately, life is still there to be lived. Getting hero Scott Walker behind the mixing desk was a dream fulfilled for Cocker, and his work on "Trees" is fantastic, bringing to mind the classic Walker Brothers, "No Regrets". "Sunrise" almost manages to out-do Spiritualized at their orchestral best, and "Bad Cover Version" is a supremely witty revenge song.

But how dare the bastards tack a new song on the end to try and persuade the fan who has the singles to buy "Hits"? Unfortunately, it is my duty to report that "The Last Day Of The Miners Strike" is the perfect way for Pulp to end their career, if that is their wont. A ballad reminiscent of "E’s and Wizz" that manages to sum up all the themes that Pulp have ever commented on, sex, class, getting fucked in one song. To end like this, with this song and this compilation, Pulp need feel no shame. They will be sorely missed, but at least their end is dignified.

Reviewed by Robert B
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godspeed yanqui (5149 bytes)The latest offering from Canadian post-rock instrumentalists GYBE comes clad in defiantly subversive packaging.  There’s the title’s reference to unexploded US weaponry; the opening track(s) 9-15-00 mirrors the shorthand of September 11 in reference to Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Dome of the Rock; they apologise for the necessity of peddling their goods through “predatory retailers and chainstores” – tying sentiments together with the back cover diagram linking major record labels to their arms-manufacturing associates.

Which is all mightily refreshing in a world where the explicitly political statement is all too absent from the music scene – but can the instrumental musings carry the weight?  Well, Godspeed are undoubtedly the class act in their field, but they first made sense to me when seen live, with illustrative film loops flickering along with the music.  On this record, as with their previous work, they successfully combine buzzing post-punk styling and martial rhythms with insistent strings and even a measured screech of horns.  This creates a moving, controlled, ebb and flow of sound that rarely drifts off into the aimless meandering that often dog their post-rock contemporaries.  The quieter moments evoke pre- and post-apocalyptic calm, sandwiching powerful crescendos which, however, come across more as euphoric than angry or devastating. The opening of the final two tracks motherfucker=redeemer, presumably intentionally, calls to mind nothing so much as a current affairs theme tune, picking up insistently for a while only to disappear swiftly into the background – like the reporting of many an important international incident.

Whether this really adds up to effective protest music, and whether it’s meant to, I’m not sure.  What it does make for is an interesting and affecting slice of post-rock that happily lives up to GYBE’s own high standards.

 Reviewed by Matt H
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THE CHURCH Parallel Universe  (Cooking Vinyl)

The Church
have been around a looong time, over 20 years, but they’re way past their biggest hit Under the Milky Way.  First reactions to this release included words like over-indulgent and dull, and while this double album of electronica and ambient rock has grown on me, those words still have their place.  CD1 remixture is a remix of this year’s earlier release ‘After Everything Now This’, while CD2 mixture contains leftover tracks from the same period.  

The band comprises bassist/singer Steve Kilbey, guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, and drummer/producer Tim Powles (who, with his side project, Crackerbox, does a lot of remixes, including this album).  With their 1981 debut ‘Of Skins and Hearts’ The Church were pegged as a ‘Down Under counterpart to XTC, playing nervous new wave pop’.   In the mid-nineties Kilbey and Willson-Piper worked as a duo, and 94’s ‘Sometime Anywhere’ relied on drum machines and electronics to fill in the gaps.  Today sees them called by some ‘one of the world's leading and most unique melodic art-rock bands’.  Hmm.

The remix disc has lots of sampling, and dreamy vocals from Kilbey.  The pounding opening track seen it @ the feelmore isn’t half bad and stay all night (king’s mix) starts off funky, then adds strings, lots of effects, and some simple but effective choppy guitar.  The standout track is radiant 1934 remix featuring samples of spoken foreign languages, spacey electronic sounds and some very Duran Duran moments, though more downbeat and bleak.  Then the album starts to drag and although it’s apparent that a lot of work and love has gone into these remixes, they were getting…well, tedious.  let y=x (survival mix) is faster-paced melodic, modern electronica with flashes of Duran and early Depeche Mode.  But the mega-tedium of the mostly-instrumental which, at 11.29, outstays it’s welcome by 11.28, is a cure for insomnia.  down: nostalgia and everything after is jazzy with some cool trumpet and the album ends with the deep ache mix which wouldn’t have been out of place in Twin Peaks.  Not having heard the originals of these tracks I can only guess that like Tim Burton’s re-imagining of ‘Planet of the Apes’, this is a hit and miss experiment.

The mixture disc is short – 37 minutes.  First track 1st woman on the moon is understated, atmospheric ambient rock, but at 11 minutes plus is indulgent and becomes just plain boring.  espionage, with it’s laid back modern jazz feel and some Chris Isaak-isms in the guitar playing is better; reward is more uptempo and catchy, but becomes repetitive and over-long; there you go is pretty dreary, sort of ambient shoegazing, and it’s easy to see why it didn’t make it onto ‘After Everything…’  night flower at 1.32 shows the band can show restraint.   The best track on this whole double album is closer twin stars which has some Rush-like guitars and is the closest they come to mainstream rock.  It’s a real gem.  So, not my cup of tea (Earl Grey in case you were wond’rin’) but it has its moments. 

Reviewed by Graham S
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ADD N TO (X) Loud Like Nature (Mute)

Always hard to label in any genre, Add N to (X)’s fourth outing doesn’t make the job any easier. Comprising Barry 7 (techno DJ), Ann Shenton (keyboard queen) and Steve Claydon (rock and roll through and through), they veer in and out of glam rock, techno, and ambient minimalism like a bluebottle with the runs, and do their best to avoid conformation. Utilising every vintage instrument under the sun, these analog aficionados stomp their way through 55 minutes.


‘Total All Out Water’ is a glam stomp direct from ‘the Glitter’ (ahem), ‘Sheez Mine’ is vintage Mute with its banshee shrieks, and ‘Party Bag’ is pure rock accompanied by a John Carpenter-esque keyboard rhythm….certainly stand out tracks. Others such as ‘- U Baby’, ‘Quantum Leap’ and ‘Pink Light’ add little with their lack of hooks....and this is a slight problem with this album….it seems almost incomplete, with its mish-mash of sounds, rhythms and vocals, like a sonic car boot sale.


Overall, a slight step down in quality from their Add Insult to Injury album, but still quirky and different enough to catch your attention. Besides, when a band crosses Sweet, the Rezillos and Fad Gadget you have to give it a go.

 Reviewed by Adam M
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LIME SPIDERS: Nine Miles High 1983-1990 (Raven Records, Australia)

It’s been a good year for collections of Australian punk and garage rock and the Lime Spiders shine out of all of them.  Now Raven Records have collected 26 tracks spanning 77 minutes in the definitive Lime Spiders collection.  The Spiders were inspired by garage bands collected on the Nuggets and, especially, the Pebbles albums, all fuzztone guitars and rasping vocals.  The early tracks, which are absolutely essential, mix original songs with cover versions – over their career the band showed they had exquisite taste in what they chose to cover.  On here are versions of songs by The Haunted (1-2-5), Love (My Flash On You), Wimple Winch (Save My Soul) and The Litter (Action Woman) to name but four.  All versions are faithful to the power and spirit of the originals, though they’re not slavish copies. Their original tracks are even better.  Out of Control is raw power, guitars revved up to supersonic speed, gut-crunching bass lines and the drumming is immense.  25th Floor is all Stooges guitars and screaming vocals while Slave Girl is a hairy caveman of a song who concusses you with a brutal riff and carries you off for his mate.    


It’s pretty clear from the album how things changed as soon as the big corporations enlisted them.  Once signed to Virgin they kept their faith in garage rock but somehow lost the jagged edges and from fuzzed out grungey garage hounds they became more polished rock musicians.  The second half of the album is still impressive but the music is more focused and controlled, with shades of The Church (not necessarily a bad thing, especially on The Other Side of You).  Jessica still stands out as a gorgeous power pop ballad but generally the later songs look like pasty Poms on Bondi Beach when compared with the amphetamine-rushed guitars of Out of Control.  That said, it’s a brilliant compilation of a band that, at their best, were infused with the spirit of garage.  And, with their covers as a guide, the album is a perfect jumping off point for a further exploration of fuzz-drenched garage rock.  

Review by Ged
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THE VENUE Mmhm! (Bella Union)

the venue mmhm (5998 bytes)Moptoppers the Venue, have been transported from 1964 to the present day aboard some retro kitsch orange plastic time machine. And although it started in Sweden it obviously spent a few good nights in the Cavern in Liverpool.  Probably.  Young (well all bar the drummer who looks about 50), good looking and smartly suited, they resemble an eye candy version of the Yardbirds.  The looks do not deceive though as they sound great too, rattling off their Scandinavian play on Britbeat - all great hooks and infectious rhythms.  


Opener and title track, Mmhm! is early 60s rock n roll and from then on the pre-1966 Beatles crop up time and time again, either directly complete with woohoos (Instant Pleasure and The Same Way As His Bus Does) or one step away by mimicking bands mimicking them (All Mod Cons era Jam with So Much To Do or Teenage Fanclub style gentle harmonies in What’s in His Head?).  Early Who but given an American hint also crop up (A Deadly Buzz) and then there’s the wonderful surf punk pop of Digesting Time.  To quote another band, it’s all killer no filler and is heartily recommended to anyone with a love of pop harmonies, great tunes and sing-along choruses.   Anyone with a pulse, in fact.  

Review by Paul M
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