Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Siouxsie And The Banshees Downside Up


Siouxsie And The Banshees Downside Up

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Downside Up. A 4 disc, 55 song, (34 of which appear on CD for the first time) chronological collection, of every Banshee B Side, remastered. A 76 page booklet, an introduction by Mark Paytress (author of the recent official Banshees biography), a brief word from Siouxsie and individual notes for each track by Siouxsie, Budgie and Severin. How long have we lived with these songs in one form or another? Finally you can throw away your dusty, crackling vinyl, distorted, hissy cassettes and overpriced badly put together bootlegs, because this is the 'Real McCoy'. Where to start? How about, forget everything you know and everything you've heard. Pretend you only have a basic knowledge of the Banshees from their classic singles. The upside to this is we can turn it all on its head and delve into the downside for the first time. The Banshees started their recording career with the sprightly, poppy takeaway Hong Kong Garden, more pop than punk, more accessible than anyone dared dream of, and like a true Chinese Take Away, they served up the sour with the sweet on the flip side, Voices. This isn't pop its art, it's the perfect antidote, harsh, clashing Guitar and Siouxsie's swooping vocal. This is where the journey begins. A journey that will take you almost full circle. From the experimental, the historical, the nostalgic, the sheer joy of being free of any restrictions. So, what is a B Side? The A Side (topside) is generally a commercial, a preview, an introduction to the full feature, normally an album. The B Side (downside), can be any number of things, the only restrictions being a band's imagination or creativity. Whilst many bands take the easy route and include a remix, live favourite, or an album track, the Banshees perform the rare feat of indulging themselves and their audience. Downside Up is not the tip of an iceberg, but the huge mass that is unseen below the waterline. At times the Banshees had an uncanny knack of continuing the theme, sound, or feel of a single on to it's b sides, Pulled To Bits, Eve White/Eve Black, Let Go. The B Side became an opportunity to pay homage to influences and heroes, 20th Century Boy, She Cracked, All Tomorrow's Parties. Revisit childhood memories, Supernatural Thing, Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant. Push boundaries, Voices, Slap Dash Snap. And have fun, both with themselves, their critics and their audience, Conga Congo, There's A Planet In My Kitchen. Downside Up documents the Banshees progress as musicians, as a band and as individuals. As Important as it is to finally have this great collection of songs on an official release, equally as Important is the excellent work that was involved in remastering these songs. Everything sounds brand new, fresh and sharp. Most impressive is probably the 2nd disc. Disc 1 deals mainly with the rawer songs, songs recorded with less instrumentation, disc 3 deals mainly with songs that have previously been available on CD in one format or another. Although the remastering is pristine throughout it is disc 2 and disc 4 (The Thorn E.P.) that benefit the most from remastering. By disc 2 and the opening whoosh of Tattoo, the Banshees had augmented their sound still further and the production on these songs is superb. Let Go, I Promise, Something Blue, all showcase a more delicate and multihued Banshees and it's possible to hear sounds, instruments, that you would swear were never there on your dusty old vinyl versions.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Morrissey ‎Your Arsenal


MorrisseyYour Arsenal

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After the disaster that was Kill Uncle, in 1992 Morrissey revamped his band by adding Boz Boorer who was the musical driving force of the rockabilly revival act, The Polecats. Boorer added the creative push that Morrissey needed in the instrumental department. Gone were the “soft” singles like Suedehead and Everyday Is Like Sunday, and in replacement, we are provided with singles such as, "You're The One For Me Fatty", and "Tomorrow" which has much more power in them. Unlike Viva Hate where the music were mostly in the background and Morrissey’s lyrics on the forefront, both the Instruments and voice compliment eachother. Neither overpower the other. The albums opening song, “You’re Going To Need Someone On Your Side”, displays this new found power and aggression. It is unlike any song he has done before, the instruments pound the way for Morrissey's lovely singing voice. It provides a taste of what musical onslaught of euphoria and aggression that will inevitably provide. Morrissey’s wit and humor is still present as shown in the single, “You’re The One For Me, Fatty”, very few pop artists would sing a love song in such a brash way, and it works for him. It is something he would write, and it is one of the shining moments in the album. It starts off with a gentle Guitar rhythm, in which the drums and the Voice joins in on the fun. Throughout the song, the bassist really brings down the groundwork and works well with the drummer to tie into the music. Musically, it is filling slice of necessity. “Seasick, But Still Docked”, is what I believe is one of his most brilliant songs and it is also the most gentle, it begins with an acoustic number, soon after Morrissey begins to softly sing, it relates to the Smiths single, “How Soon Is Now?”, not in the musical aspect, but the context of what he is singing about. It is such a depressing song, but Morrissey does sad well. It really will pull on your heartstrings and wreck them. The Albums closer, "Tomorrow", is such a catchy tune. It'll have you dancing on the top of a Chair, facing a mirror emulating the unmistakable voice. Again, this songs instrumental department takes a step on the forefront and really lays down all backing that Morrissey needs. Overall, it is one of Morrissey’s shining albums. It is in league with “Vauxhall And I” and it is what Morrissey needed after Kill Uncle meanwhile shooting him up with success in the United States. It has both feeling and power, both Morrissey and band really work together to provide the best in each other.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Everything But The Girl ‎Walking Wounded Reissue


Everything But The GirlWalking Wounded Reissue

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Originally released in May 1996, Walking Wounded was something of a watershed album for the duo, on which they fully embraced the dance sound that could hardly be further from the acoustic jazziness of their first album Eden, which came some 12 years earlier. However, far from being a calculated move to boost their popularity, the change in sound was a gradual and organic process, that began the previous year with Tracey’s highly successful appearance on Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’, on which the Bristol band rightly suspected that her ‘desolate’ vocals would perfectly suit their wonderfully weathered electronic sound. They were right. The real ‘dance revelation’ though came with Todd Terry’s remix of Everything But The Girl’s ‘Missing’ single, which became a massive worldwide hit a few months later, having undeservedly stalled at No.69 when released in its original incarnation. So against this backdrop of events, it is perhaps not as surprising that the band produced a full-on Electronic dance album like Walking Wounded. Anyone hearing the album for the first time would possibly be astonished to discover that the band were not always this way, so natural is the sound. Beginning with a trio of hits‘Before Today’ sets the mood with its drum and bass stylings, giving way to Top 10 hit ‘Wrong’, which also appears here in three remixed versions and a live version, the Todd Terry mix again being a hugely successful collaboration. ‘Single’, another subtly chart-friendly track, makes up this opening salvo. The real highlight though remains the title track; the lead single and the first EBTG single since the ubiquitous ‘Missing’, it no doubt found itself under pressure to perform in the charts and I am sure it would have been a relief to the duo when it flew at No.6 just ahead of its parent album’s release. The song is perfection, with minimal but dramatic synth lines combining perfectly with the drum and bass beat and Tracey’s wonderful vocals, which further demonstrate her extraordinarily versatile style. ‘Walking Wounded’ is represented here with additional remixes from Omni Trio and Dave Wallace; both are good but neither approaches the majesty of the original.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Saint Etienne ‎Smash The System (Singles And More)



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Beach Boys references, samples of obscure films, samples of not-so-obscure prog rock trios -- whether or not one faults Saint Etienne for being style-over-substance cultural archivists, they did release some of the best dance-pop singles of the '90s. The dancefloor aspect hasn't leant itself to a timeless sheen to each one of them, but truthfully, people who find nothing to like about the group -- not a single song -- probably don't like pop music. And God only knows thousands of broke Saint Etienne fans vehemently disagree with the axiom that record collectors shouldn't make records. Throughout the '90s, Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs, and Sarah Cracknell kept one foot in the past and the other in the present, making musical jigsaw puzzles out of sounds old and new. For many, Saint Etienne has provided a gateway into '60s pop, reggae, Northern soul, and techno. Smash the System, a swollen update of the Too Young to Die singles compilation, demonstrates their niche. Barring one song, this package contains everything Too Young to Die features and picks up where it left off, patching on the two singles from 1998's Good Humor (the compilation ends chronologically with 1999's Places to Visit EP). But wait -- there's more. In addition to the 14 A-sides, a hodgepodge of album tracks and rarities -- seven of which are taken from Japan-only compilations -- are selected to fill out the remainder of the two-disc set. As a place to start, one could do far worse. However, due to the sheer volume of decent-to-great Saint Etienne material floating around, there's no way that two discs could possibly give listeners everything they need.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Orange Juice Coals To Newcastle


Orange Juice Coals To Newcastle

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When the Scottish pop band Orange Juice split up in January of 1985, it didn’t seem too likely that they would become one of the more influential bands of the era. Yes, their early singles on the tiny Postcard label Generated some excitement, and they had a bona fide chart hit with the 1983’s single "Rip It Up," but their career had mostly come to a sputtering halt outside the lens of the public eye. One Short year later, with the rise of C-86 and the early indie pop bands, the brightly scrappy attitude and scruffily melodic sound of early Orange Juice suddenly became popular again. Fast forward to the mid-'90s and Belle & Sebastian, then Franz Ferdinand and more, to see that the Orange Juice legacy lives on as strongly as ever. The songs of Edwyn Collins (and those of James Kirk) have been required listening for a large number of great pop bands. Thanks to the release of 2005’s The Glasgow School, which made all the band’s early recordings widely available for the first time, even more bands were able to draw inspiration from the band and their sound. In 2010, all the band’s recorded output was finally made easily accessible. Put together in part by Edwyn Collins, the Box set …Coals to Newcastle is beautiful to look at, wonderful to listen to, and basically a dream come true for Orange Juice fans who weren’t able to get a hold of the original albums or the Japanese CD reissues. Even if you did own either of those, Coals is still worth seeking out for all the extras. The six-CD/one-DVD set contains all of the band’s recorded output: the early singles, the three studio albums, the Texas Fever EP, a full complement of B-sides, a handful of demos and different mixes, a disc of BBC sessions, two videos, live footage from the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a very '80s concert video (Dada with the Juice) that the final incarnation of the band made. The Glasgow School is included as the first disc, and it’s still amazing to hear all the singles and demos cut in that short period of time (between 1980 and 1981) all strung together. Songs like "Blue Boy," "Falling and Laughing," and "Lovesick" bubble and pop in a brilliant mix of wise-ass punk and off-kilter disco, at once creating and defining a new kind of pop. The joy and energy that radiate from these tracks is life-affirming. While common wisdom states that the Postcard singles were the artistic high point of the band, the three albums and EP that the revamped (and shifting) band produced are perfectly good, even sometimes great. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a better early-'80s pop album that their debut, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. Hearing the discs one after the other with all the assorted B-sides, live cuts, and spare tracks, you can see that the progression the band makes from lo-fi kids thrashing about in the studio to polished pros working with esteemed reggae producer Dennis Bovell does nothing to detract from the humanity and soul in the songs, and especially in the voice and vision of Edwyn Collins. Add to these discs the uniformly excellent BBC sessions, and you have a full picture of one of the most Important and enjoyable groups of the modern pop era. …Coals to Newcastle is everything an Orange Juice fan could have hoped for and a simply thrilling example of how to put together a box set.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Various ‎Just Say Noël


VariousJust Say Noël

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A compilation CD released by Geffen featuring artists on their roster around 1996. It features music from Sonic Youth, Beck, The Roots, XTC, Southern Culture On The Skids, and many more, This Is The Last Post Of The Year So Have A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year, Aid00

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Elvis Costello ‎The Very Best Of Elvis Costello



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One of the most striking elements of Costello's songs has always been the scathing, precise social commentary of his lyrics. Never one to shirk away from issues, the early period of Costello's work sees him addressing topics from mercenary warfare ('Oliver's Army') to wife-beating ('Watching The Detectives'). It is a mark of his talent that these songs still sound strikingly relevant today. Check out 'Clubland' for a cynical sussing of club-culture 15 years before Jarvis became 'Sorted (For Es and Whizz)' or 1978's '(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea', a depiction of exploitative Warhol-style production of fashion models. Musically as well as lyrically, Costello's considerable ability was quickly in evidence. From his debut My Aim Is True, 'Watching The Detectives', with its dubby bass, fragmented guitar figures and skittering percussion, created a White reggae sound much imitated by The Police. In 1978, with collaborator and producer Steve Nieve, Costello formed The Attractions (Steve Nieve - keyboards, Bruce Thomas - Bass, and Pete Thomas - Drums) for This Year's Model. In the process, a unique sound was created that was both restrained and innovative. On the spunky pop of 'Pump it Up', for example, The Attractions provide a dumb-ass punk three-chord riff and a Doors-esque organ sound as backdrop to Costello's rapid fire Subterranean Homesick Blues lyrics. Elsewhere The Attractions create accompaniments that are both beautiful and subtle ('Shipbuilding'), and swirly, frantic and poppy ('Lipstick Vogue'). Viewing this collection as a whole Costello's musical diversity is apparent. From the snarly, spiky pop on Armed Forces to the more laid-back calypso soul on tracks such as 'Everyday I Write The Book' from 1983's Punch The Clock, Costello's music managed to evolve while staying true to a deeply rooted artistic vision. Costello's work away from The Attractions, such as the critically overlooked but intriguing 1996 album with the Brodsky Quartet, All This Useless Beauty, displayed an imagination and taste much lacking during the time. Away from the security of The Attractions, Costello still created some excellent material, including 'Brilliant Mistake', the track featured here from his 1986 album with T.Bone Burnett, the superb King Of America. While his solo outing from 1991, 'Mighty Like A Rose', was somewhat less than impressive, 1994 saw him reunited with The Attractions for Brutal Youth, a well received return to form. Costello manages to consistently sound contemporary while resisting the remix-one-stop-career-fix option, in favour of the discipline of hard work and strong songwriting. While such 'Best Of' collections can always be criticised for missing certain favourites ('Less Than Zero' is particularly conspicuous by its absence), this CD contains a vast array of classic tracks. It is an essential purchase.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Various ‎Creation Artifact: The Dawn Of Creation Records 1983-1985



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Alan McGee's Creation Records was one of the most influential and consistently interesting labels of the '80s and '90s, cranking out classic songs and albums while giving the world some of the biggest bands of the era (the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Oasis). Cherry Red's 2015 box set Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 83-85 focuses on the very beginnings of Creation's run, compiling singles, live tracks, demos, and Peel Sessions and putting them in a handsome package. The first two discs gather up (almost) all the singles released between 1983 and 1985, beginning with the Legend!'s raucous "'73 in '83." Along the way there are classic tracks by McGee's own Biff Bang Pow! ("There Must Be a Better Life"), the Loft ("Why Does the Rain"), the Jasmine Minks ("Think"), and Meat Whiplash ("Don't Slip Up"). The first JAMC and Primal Scream singles are here too, along with two brilliant singles by the Pastels and obscure releases by the Moodists and the X-Men. The sheer amount of quality indie pop on display is staggering. McGee and his crew were great talent-spotters and the label's aesthetic was spot-on, capturing the best aspects of '60s pop and '70s punk while sounding smack up to date. The third disc is a grab bag of rarities, obscurities, and live tracks highlighted by a wonderfully jangly single by McGee's pre-Creation band the Laughing Apple; three live songs by a band that was very inspirational to McGee, the Television Personalities; and excerpts from the Alive in the Living Room album, which captured Creation bands (and others) playing at the club McGee founded. The fourth disc is one that will have collectors frothing at the mouth, composed as it is of all previously unreleased demos by a handful of bands, including lots of Jasmine Minks tracks, sounding scruffy and alive with youthful vigor. The Biff Bang Pow!, Legend! and X-Men tracks are all fun, while the Moodists' takes on "Train from Kansas City" and "Guess I'm Dumb" show that they knew their way around a cover version, but the crown jewels are the three tracks that Meat Whiplash recorded for their never released second single. The fifth disc is another one for the hardcore Creation fans. It's made up of Peel Sessions, with a handful of live Loft tracks added as a bonus. The Loft are the stars here, sounding like a great lost band as they run through their perfect jangle pop repertoire with sophisticated flair. The Meat Whiplash session is noisy thrills and the Bodines deliver frantically energetic versions of their classic tunes "Theresa" and "William Shatner." Overall, the box set is nearly perfect. The music itself is consistently brilliant, the rarities are impressive, the curation very well considered, and the bright sound fairly jumps out of the speakers. Fans of the label, and indie pop in general, will be pleased that so much care was given to Creation's thrilling early days and should waste no time adding Artifact to their collections.
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