Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Dubstar Disgraceful


Dubstar Disgraceful 

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Somewhat of a triumph, especially for a British band of the '90s with no hint of Beatles influence or tortured vocals. Instead we are treated to a smorgasbord of nifty melodies, some very good lyrics and Sarah Blackwood's lovely vocals. For the most part, the sound (led by Stephen Hague's glossy production) is layered synths, sometimes Erasuresque (as on "Anywhere"), with programmed beats and, here or there, the odd jangly guitar a la the Sundays ("St. Swithins Day," written by Billy Bragg). The singles "Stars" and "Not So Manic Now" are sumptuous, and even when the guitar delves into grungy terrain on the title track, reminiscent of Garlands-period Cocteau Twins

Saturday, 25 June 2022

The Wolfgang Press Everything Is Beautiful (A Retrospective 1983-1995)



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The Wolfgang Press have had a long and colorful career, one which is nicely summarized in this retrospective compilation. Although the trio has always had something of a reputation as artsy iconoclasts, the simple fact is that the band has never stopped looking back at vintage American soul music; the massed horns and falsetto backing vocals on "Going South," the gospel overtones of "A Girl Like You," and the band's famously execrable cover of "Respect" (recorded with help from Cocteau Twins) are all evidence of a fairly single-minded musical sensibility. What has always made them unique is the skillful complexity of their beat-driven sound and the really pretty awful voice of singer and bandleader Michael Allen. Highlights here include the beautifully funky "Chains" and the just plain beautiful live version of "People Say." Fans will appreciate the remixes, and for everyone else, this is probably all the Wolfgang Press they need.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

The Dream Syndicate The Days Of Wine And Roses


The Dream Syndicate The Days Of Wine And Roses

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With few exceptions, the bands that rose from L.A.'s Paisley Underground scene in the '80s had only one real thing in common -- all of them were obsessed with the rock & roll touchstones of the mid- to late '60s, whether it was psychedelia (the Rain Parade), country rock (the Long Ryders), or AM pop (the Bangles). But while most of these bands looked to the sunny side of '60s rock, the Dream Syndicate were the Paisley Underground's juvenile delinquents, smart but cynical and happy to spread bad vibes for the hell of it. Nearly all of the Paisley bands were audibly Californian, but while they hailed from Davis, California, the Dream Syndicate's key influences were significantly from the East Coast: the Velvet Underground (particularly White Light/White Heat), and mid-'60s Bob Dylan (think Highway 61 Revisited). At the core of their sound was the bracing thrust and parry between Karl Precoda's lead guitar, noisy and elemental but inspired in its wanderlust, and the sharp report of Steve Wynn's rhythm guitar, yielding a tougher and more abrasive sound than their peers. Consequently, the Dream Syndicate's debut album, 1982's The Days of Wine and Roses, is arguably the finest LP to come out of the Paisley Underground's salad days, and ultimately atypical of the movement, a blast of beautiful but ominous rock & roll chaos whose speedy guitar-based attack was held in place by the intelligent minimalism of bassist Kendra Smith and drummer Dennis Duck. While the Dream Syndicate's influences were obvious (the initial vinyl pressing of The Days of Wine and Roses included the helpful run-off groove message "Pre-Motorcyle Accident"), the way they manifested themselves were not; the skronky impact of the guitars recalled the Velvets, but Precoda's billows of noise had a personality all their own, and though Wynn's vocal delivery had the bite of both vintage Dylan and Lou Reed, his lyrical voice was his own, offhand but deeply personal at the same time. And Chris D.'s no-frills production captured the Dream Syndicate gloriously, and the greatest pleasure of The Days of Wine and Roses is how well this band plays together, like a miraculously contained explosion that seemed to be going a dozen places at once but confidently and fearlessly rolls forward, and the expressive jams on "Then She Remembers," "Until Lately," and the title cut are outstanding. The Dream Syndicate would be a very different band when they cut Medicine Show two years later, but while they would remain an interesting band to the end, The Days of Wine and Roses captures them at their peak, and it's essential listening for noise guitar fiends and anyone interested in '80s alternative rock.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Tracey Thorn Out Of The Woods


Tracey Thorn Out Of The Woods

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Raising three children kept Tracey Thorn all but completely away from music for several years. Apart from appearing on Tiefschwarz's "Damage," she was completely absent since 1999, while husband and Everything But the Girl partner Ben Watt continued DJing and operating his Buzzin' Fly label. Thorn even thought it possible at one point that she might not record again, but she has returned with help from several collaborators to make her second solo album, released 25 years after her first. Despite the changes in her life, as well as the varied backgrounds of the producers, Out of the Woods is not the least bit out of character. It is a mellow, melodic album that switches between stripped-down, folk-inspired material, downtempo pop, and up-to-date productions designed for both home and club listening. Thorn has returned as if she never went away, sounding completely at ease without Watt. She's still, for the most part, singing about love; "A-Z," in which a young outsider, fed up with being beaten and teased, leaves her small town for the city, is the only instance where parenthood might have had an effect on her songwriting. The timely production touches are a more than adequate fit for Thorn's subdued but emotive vocals, just as effective as the drum'n'bass elements on EBTG's last two albums. "It's All True," produced by Ewan Pearson with Darshan Jesrani and Klas Lindblad, is the prime highlight -- bounding synth stabs, sweetened strings, percolating percussion accents, and the kind of near-ecstatic vocal turn that only Thorn could deliver -- utilizing a modernized mutation of the post-disco/pre-house boogie era (as exemplified by Jesrani and Morgan Geist's Metro Area). While the beginning-to-end level of quality is expected from Thorn, it's remarkable that the album comes after such an extended absence. And, despite the number of idiosyncratic collaborators -- all of whom established themselves after Temperamental -- it achieves cohesion and sounds exactly like a Tracey Thorn album.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Ben Watt North Marine Drive



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Ben Watt's 1983 album, North Marine Drive, reached number one on the U.K. indie charts. The quiet acoustic album has jazzy melodies and rhythms throughout. Standout tracks include "Empty Bottles," "On Box Hill," and a cover of Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." SpinART re-released the long out-of-print album and included five bonus tracks, a collaboration with composer Robert Wyatt entitled Summer into Winter. Fans of Everything But the Girl's jazz material, like the albums Acoustic or Idlewild, will obsess over North Marine Drive. Its understated presentation contains all the reflective melancholy typical of Watt's later works. The Wyatt collaboration Summer Into Winter fits well at the tail end of the album, as the moody, multi-instrumental ambience perpetuates the intimate feel while adding a haunting, ethereal quality reminiscent of trip-hop. North Marine Drive is an underappreciated gem that is essential to fans of elegant songwriting.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Secret Shine Untouched


Secret Shine Untouched

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After a series of singles and EPs, 1993's Untouched was the only full-length album Bristol's Secret Shine released in their original incarnation. (After somewhat unexpectedly re-forming in 2004, they released a new album, All of the Stars, in 2008.) Perhaps the purest example of shoegazer pop that Sarah Records ever released, Untouched is sometimes dismissed as a junior league My Bloody Valentine knock-off. But while it's undeniable that Kevin Shields' spirit hangs heavily over this album's nine tracks, Secret Shine wisely sidestep most of the failings of the style. Crucially, they're keen on dynamics as much as they are atmosphere: note how cleverly opening track "Suck Me Down" keeps veering in and out of a slight perversion of the main riff from Elvis Costello & the Attractions' "Pump It Up" in between its shimmering downtempo verses. Closing track "Sun Warmed Water" makes similarly excellent use of Kathryn Smith's helium-pitch harmonies and an insistent drum-pattern hook to create a whirling soundscape perhaps inspired by MBV's "Only Shallow" without tipping over into overt homage. The album's best song, "Underworld," is also its most insistent, with singer/songwriter Jamie Gingell's most immediately memorable melody and an arrangement that emphasizes the pop hooks above the beds of droning guitars. But Gingell and company are also purely at home with more traditional shoegazer washes of effects pedals, overdubbed harmonies, and tom-toms like "Into the Ether" and "Spellbound." Given how thoroughly the style was about to be obliterated by the rise of the Brit-poppers, it's entirely arguable that Untouched was the last great shoegaze record.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Adorable Against Perfection



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They have never been praised for the great albums they produced but Adorable released one of the stronger albums during the year 1993. Stuck in the moment between the end of the shoegaze hysteria and the Britpop era their debut album Against Perfection appeared. The heavy instrumentation and impressive voice of lead singer Pete Fijalkowski can definitely be linked to the perfection theyre searching for in their music. The bittersweet Sunshine Smile shows their crossover between shoegaze and Britpop while the secret choruses from the guitar hooks creates the thrill of the unknown on Glorious. Adorable released only two studio albums before disbanding as a music group. It was an impressive five-year period in which they combined the dreamy world of the shoegaze with the pop but never got the recognition they deserved

Saturday, 4 June 2022

The June Brides & Phil Wilson Every Conversation The Story Of


The June Brides & Phil Wilson Every Conversation The Story Of

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Though the June Brides are usually pegged as one of the C-86 bands that permeated the U.K. indie underground in the mid- to late '80s, they actually predated that scene by a few years. In reality, the June Brides, like the Pale Fountains and the Blue Aeroplanes, were a bridge between earlier post-punk acts like Josef K or the Television Personalities and the C-86 bands; they also favored a more polished sound than the bands that came before or after, with an expanded lineup that featured both a trumpeter and a viola player. The comprehensive double-disc anthology Every Conversation: The Story of the June Brides and Phil Wilson, contains 41 tracks (including an entire disc's worth of BBC sessions) that comprehensively cover both the 1983-1986 tenure of the June Brides, including all of their singles and their sole album, 1985's There Are Eight Million Stories, as well as the handful of solo singles singer/songwriter Phil Wilson recorded for Creation Records in that influential label's early days. Though the June Brides lacked that one classic single that summed them up in three minutes or less (though both the title track and their first outing, 1984's "In the Rain," come very close), the material here is unfailingly solid. Wilson's yearning, boyish (and occasionally pitch-poor) vocals were strongly reminiscent of Josef K's Paul Haig, a connection that the jangly minor-key shuffle "Josef's Gone" seems to nod to, and the band's blend of the third Velvet Underground album's moody charms and the wide-eyed winsomeness of the nascent twee pop aesthetic proved hugely influential to the generation of D.I.Y. bands that followed. Best of all, the June Brides didn't last long enough to attempt any misbegotten stylistic makeovers: even Wilson's solo singles stay close to the shimmering guitar pop template of his former band, so much so that one has to look at the liner notes to see which songs are credited to whom.

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