Wednesday, 16 August 2017

World Party ‎Best In Show


World PartyBest In Show

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When Karl Wallinger left the Waterboys in the mid-'80s to form World Party, it only took one song to convince fans that this was no one-off side project. That track, "Ship of Fools," and 12 others populate the band's first-ever "greatest-hits" compilation, the appropriately titled Best in Show. Wallinger, a devout "Beatlemaniac," never aped a move by the Fab Four without throwing more of himself into the mix, which makes World Party's sophomore effort, Goodbye Jumbo, such a joy. Represented here by no less than seven tracks, Jumbo riffed on the new beatnik vibe of the early '90s without ever resorting to the mildly disingenuous Lenny Kravitz version of the "new summer of love." World Party may have been part-Dylan, part-Donovan with a little bit of Wings-era McCartney thrown in for good measure, but Wallinger's socially conscious brand of mysticism felt firmly rooted in the prosperous Clinton era. Cuts like "Put the Message in the Box," "Way Down Now," and "Thank You World" grooved with an easy-enough vibe to lure AAA radio listeners, but connected on a deeper level with the college crowd. 1993's Bang!, 1997's Egyptology, and 2000's Dumbing Up deserve more than the one track apiece that appear here, but to be fair, Bang!'s "Is It Like Today?," one of the group's strongest moments, was the last real radio presence Wallinger and company enjoyed. Best in Show is nothing if not concise, and while longtime fans might lament the omission of songs like "All I Gave," "Vanity Fair," and "Kingdom Come," incoming ears will perk up and seek them out for themselves.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Super Furry Animals ‎Radiator


Super Furry AnimalsRadiator

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Using the psychedelicized prog-punk of Fuzzy Logic as a foundation, Super Furry Animals move even further into left field on their second album, Radiator. As before, the group displays a gift for catchy, deceptively complex melodic hooks, but now its songwriting and arrangements are mind-bogglingly intricate and eclectic. Songs boast intertwining melodies and countermelodies, with guitars and keyboards swirling around the vocals. Similarly, the production is dense and heavy with detail, borrowing heavily from prog rock and psychedelic pop, but pieced together with the invention of techno and played with the energy of punk. It's a heady, impressive kaleidoscope of sounds, but what gives Radiator its weight is the way the sonics complement the songwriting. SFA's songs are melodic, accessible, and utterly original -- melodically, they may borrow from '60s pop, but they rearrange the clichés in fresh ways. Also, Gruff Rhys has a fondness for revolutionary politics and the bizarre that helps give Radiator its intoxicating, otherworldly atmosphere, making it one of the few late-'90s albums that sounds inventive, vibrant, and utterly contemporary.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Jesus And Mary Chain ‎21 Singles


The Jesus And Mary Chain21 Singles

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Volumes have already been written about the historical significance of the Jesus and Mary Chain. The group’s landmark debut, aptly titled Psychocandy, was the archetype for noise-pop, an album that transformed the use of distortion in indie rock with its screeching abrasion, yet managed to feature some of the catchiest melodies of the 80s. This unique blend of challenging noise and melodic pop was later adapted by hundreds of bands, with innovative groups such as My Bloody Valentine among the forerunners. Unlike the majority of its followers, though, the Jesus and Mary Chain was primarily a singles band. However groundbreaking Psychocandy was, several not-so-great songs marred the album, undermining the band’s brilliance. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s formula was not infallible; past the album’s highlights, the overwhelming use of distortion occasionally grew tiring, to the point that it seemed the same song was being played on repeat. While none of the group’s later work saw too great a departure from its original style, a look at only the bands’s singles reveals its repertoire to be more exciting than that of almost any other band within the same genre. 21 Singles presents the band at its absolute best, unhampered by repetition and unaffected by a lack of significant development because of the sheer genius of its best songs. The collection, organized chronologically, begins with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s quintessential debut single, “Upside Down”. Like all of the group’s best songs, “Upside Down” has more energy than most other bands could ever hope to produce, with wailing feedback and thumping drums marvelously accompanying Reid’s triumphant vocals as he proclaims tough-guy phrases like “Feels like I’m going mad/ best friend I’ve ever had”. Psychocandy’s singles continue in very much the same vein as “Upside Down”, especially with the brutal assault of “Never Understand”. “You Trip Me Up”, “Just Like Honey”, and “Some Candy Talking” are calmer, but use just as much distortion to hide their sweet pop nature. These first five songs are all classics, compared either to the rest of the collection or to virtually any other singles released during the mid-80s. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s follow-up to Psychocandy, Darklands, is represented excellently by its three lively singles, “April Skies”, “Happy When It Rains”, and the title track. On these, the group stripped away excess feedback and allowed for a more conventional approach to rock’n’roll. The effect of these songs’ different treatment is equally powerful, although the weaker melodies prevent the singles from attaining the same heights of those from Psychocandy. “Sidewalking” and “Blues from a Gun” are the compilation’s heaviest tracks, revealing for the first time a traditional hard rock side to the band. Here, Reid delivers some of his most convincing vocals. At least, one would think so before hearing “Head On”. Easily the highlight of the band’s career, “Head On” characterizes most of what great indie rock is supposed to be, donating four minutes of complete bliss to the collection. Incredibly riveting, the song features an utterly inspiring chorus (“Makes you wanna feel/ makes you wanna try/ makes you wanna blow the stars from the sky”) delivered with all the band’s visceral emotion. The music perfectly suits the lyrics, with the same breadth of passion present in the guitars as in Reid’s vocals. The four Honey’s Dead singles embrace much of the early 90s British music scene, using more danceable beats to good effect. The controversial “Reverence” (“I wanna die just like Jesus Christ”) juxtaposes hard-rock riffing with a drum machine to create a new sound for the band, a new way to boast both their power and their catchiness. The album’s other singles are very good as well, but unfortunately, after Honey’s Dead, there is a slight dip in quality. Stoned and Dethroned gives us two of the band’s softer numbers, the very radio-friendly “Sometimes Always”, and the simple “Come On”. Munki, the band’s final album, re-introduces a sound that had been absent since Automatic with the hard-hitting “Cracking Up” and even adds to this style with “I Love Rock’N’Roll”, which, very surprisingly, features horns. It is clear by this point that the Reids have lost some of their ability to write exceptional melodies, but these singles are still pretty good. Psychocandy may have been the Jesus and Mary Chain’s classic, but 21 Singles is undoubtedly the place to start with the band. As any singles compilation should, the collection highlights what made the Jesus and Mary Chain the fabulous band it was, capturing the best moments throughout its career without ever dwelling on them so that they become dull. In doing so, 21 Singles proves itself to be both the perfect introduction to the band and the group’s most listenable effort.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Portishead ‎Roseland NYC Live


PortisheadRoseland NYC Live

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"They're dark, they're spooky, they're emotional. Ladies and gentlemen of New York City... presenting Portishead!!" In a perfect world, that's how this live record would kick off. Of course, that's not the band's style. Rather, we hear a few seconds of the 30+ piece orchestra tuning their instruments before the eerie whistle of "Humming" sets in, orchestra right on its tail. Two minutes later, Geoff Barrow's trademark slow- motion hip-hop groove bursts in, followed by Beth Gibbons' emotive, whispery vocals. Dramatic? There's no doubt about it. This is a band that clearly takes themselves, their music, and their performances very seriously. And naturally, they went for the full effect on July 24, 1997 at New York City's Roseland Ballroom. Pitched as a "one- night only special live engagement," the show sold out almost immediately. They brought their orchestra, they brought their horn section, they brought their drama, and PNYC documents the performance beautifully. The album sees Portishead elegantly blow through 11 songs culled from their 1994 debut Dummy and Self- titled release with decidedly awesome results. The songs from Portishead are relatively straight- forward as they were performed purely as an introduction to the album which wasn't to be released for another two months at the time of this concert. The songs pulled from Dummy, on the other hand, are executed beautifully, most notably "Sour Times," which starts off gently and climaxes with Gibbons practically screaming the lyrics, her vocals altered electronically

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Underworld ‎1992-2012 The Anthology



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The departure of Darren Emerson prior to the release of 2002’s A Hundred Days Off album could’ve signaled the beginning of the end for Underworld. While his contributions were undoubtedly essential in galvanizing the group’s genre-defining techno and abstract electronica of the 90’s, Underworld continued on to fully realize its panoramic sonic capabilities in the last decade at the hands of its core duo of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde.Spanning 3 CDs, Anthology is luxurious- capturing glorious pieces from 1994’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman through 2010’s Barking album rendering the previous ‘hits’ collection, 1992-2002, obsolete in the process. CD1 covers the sacred early territory including the brooding “Mmm, Skyscraper I Love You,” the punishing “Cowgirl,” the mournful “Dirty Epic,” and “Dark and Long (Dark Train)”- the quintessential archetype for the techno genre. CD2 opens with many people’s gateway track to the band: the crushing 1996 juggernaut that is “Born Slippy.” 1999’s Beaucoup Fish album had the unenviable task of following up the Trainspotting centerpiece and is represented by “Jumbo” and the manic freight train “Moaner.” “Push Upstairs” and especially “Shudder: King of Snake” are more than deserving representations of this underrated album yet they are omitted. “Two Months Off” may be the group’s single most important track as it urgently, joyously declares with soaring harmonies and cascading, sun-drenched synths that Smith and Hyde would be just fine a duo. “To Heal” is a symphonic masterpiece which crystallizes the warmth and humanity that has pervaded Underworld’s post-Emerson works. “Scribble” is a surprising selection from the Barking album that also features the slow simmering Dubfire co-production, “Bird 1” and the irrepressible “Always Loved a Film.” CD3 is a deeper but maybe non-essential exploration of some of the band’s rarities. The highlight is the heavy, monolithic “Second Hand” which featured on the Café del Mar Volume 1 compilation. Other notable tracks include the dazzling acid workout “Why, Why, Why,” the rising jam “Parc (Live)” and spacious, meditative “Simple Peal” which were all previously only available on Japanese imports.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Portishead Dummy Japan Album


Portishead Dummy

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Portishead's album debut is a brilliant, surprisingly natural synthesis of claustrophobic spy soundtracks, dark breakbeats inspired by frontman Geoff Barrow's love of hip-hop, and a vocalist (Beth Gibbons) in the classic confessional singer/songwriter mold. Beginning with the otherworldly theremin and martial beats of "Mysterons," Dummy hits an early high with "Sour Times," a post-modern torch song driven by a Lalo Schifrin sample. The chilling atmospheres conjured by Adrian Utley's excellent guitar work and Barrow's turntables and keyboards prove the perfect foil for Gibbons, who balances sultriness and melancholia in equal measure. Occasionally reminiscent of a torchier version of Sade, Gibbons provides a clear focus for these songs, with Barrow and company behind her laying down one of the best full-length productions ever heard in the dance world. Where previous acts like Massive Attack had attracted dance heads in the main, Portishead crossed over to an American, alternative audience, connecting with the legion of angst-ridden indie fans as well. Better than any album before it, Dummy merged the pinpoint-precise productions of the dance world with pop hallmarks like great songwriting and excellent vocal performances.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Billy Bragg ‎Must I Paint You A Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg



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In 1983, Billy Bragg was a guy with a cheap electric guitar, a rough but passionate voice, and a knack for writing and singing straight from the heart whether he was discussing leftist political concerns or the mysterious interactions between men and women. The guy has a band and the political issues that have caught his attention are trickier 20 years later, but he's still enchanted and puzzled by love, and hasn't stopped writing worthwhile songs about it. Must I Paint You a Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg is a three-disc, 50-song compilation that does an admirable job of capturing the hills and valleys of Bragg's recording career, opening up with "A New England" from his debut EP, Life's a Riot With Spy vs. Spy, and closing with a cut from 2002's England, Half English. A spin through this set suggests that Bragg's best (or at least most affecting) work arrived in the early stages of his career, as disc one (which follows Bragg through Worker's Playtime) is a decidedly more solid and absorbing listen than disc two (the material from the disappointing William Bloke in particular weighs down the collection's second act), and his love songs have stood the test of time a shade better than his political material (the miners' strike may be over, but broken hearts are timeless). But there are plenty of gems to be found throughout this collection, and Must I Paint You a Picture? serves as a potent reminder that in the grand tradition of Bob Dylan, even Bragg's lesser albums contain a handful of truly memorable songs worth hearing; if this isn't the ideal Billy Bragg collection, it's an excellent introduction, a solid career overview, and a lovely reminder of how much he has to say about the heart and the mind. Initial pressings come with a ten-song bonus disc that adds several hard to find selections, including Bragg's Anglophile rewrite of "Route 66," a telling duet with the late Ted Hawkins, and a bootleg remix that merges Bragg with the Hives.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Julian Cope ‎Peggy Suicide Deluxe Edition



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Casting the ill-advised attempts at too-clean modern rock from his late-'80s days firmly aside and fulfilling the promise of Skellington and Droolian, Cope on Peggy Suicide produced his best album to date, overtopping even his Teardrop Explodes efforts. Showing a greater musical breadth and range than ever before, from funk to noise collage -- and more importantly, not sounding like a dilettante at any step of the way -- Cope and his now seasoned backing band, with drummer J.D. Hassinger in and De Harrison out, surge from strength to strength. Ostensibly conceived as a concept album regarding potential ecological and social collapse, Cope wisely seeks to set moods rather than create a straitjacketed story line. As a result, Peggy Suicide can be enjoyed both as an overall statement and as a collection of individual songs; its sequencing is excellent to boot, moving from song to song as if it was always meant to be that way. Cope's voice is a revelation -- for those not having heard the hard-to-find Skellington and Droolian, his conversational asides, bold but not full-of-itself singing, and equally tender, softer takes when the material demands it must have seemed like a complete turnaround from the restrained My Nation Underground cuts. He handles all the guitar as well, with Skinner concentrating on bass and keyboards; guest Michael "Moon-Eye" Watts does some fine fretbending as well, including an amazing performance on the awesome "Safesurfer," a lengthy meditation on AIDS and its consequences. Picking out only some highlights does the album as a whole a disservice, but besides offering up an instant catchy pop single, "Beautiful Love," Cope handles everything from the minimal moods of "Promised Land" and experimentation of "Western Front 1992 CE" to the frenetic "Hanging Out and Hung Up on the Line" and commanding "Drive, She Said." An absolute, stone-cold rock classic, full stop.
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