Monday, 29 December 2014

R.E.M. Out Of Time

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1Radio Song4:12
2Losing My Religion4:26
4Near Wild Heaven3:17
6Shiny Happy People3:44
8Half A World Away3:26
10Country Feedback4:07
11Me In Honey4:06

Following the success of R.E.M.‘s 1988 album Green and the extensive supporting tour which followed, the band took nearly a year to recuperate before reconvening to produce their next album. That album would come in 1991 and be titled Out of Time, and would serve to further expose this once niche alternative band to mainstream commercial audiences. The seventh studio album by the band, Out Of Time was by far the most richly produced to date, with more relatable compositions, an expansion of the instrumentation used, cameos from contemporary artists, and much more attention paid to sonic detail of the finished product. The album combines the elements which were carried over from Green – pop and folk – with the addition of country, funk, and classical elements. The band’s chief lyricist, singer Michael Stipe, moved away from the overtly political themes they had used frequently in the 1980s, towards more personally-relatable and accessible songs, a direction they would continue through the 1990s. Fueled by the blockbuster hit “Losing My Religion”, which became the band’s biggest, Out of Time would top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, despite the fact that R.E.M. did not tour to support the album. The single and album won a combined three Grammy Awards in 1992 and to date has sold over 18 million copies worldwide. The album commences with “Radio Song”, a lighthearted funk that was completely unique to anything the band had done to that point. The song features vocals by KRS-One, leader of Boogie Down Productions, and also shows off the talents of the band’s drummer Bill Berry. Another popular song from the album to include a guest vocalist was “Shiny Happy People”, featuring Kate Pierson of the B-52s. The song is introduced with a unique string arrangement before breaking into a typical, upbeat R.E.M. riff. It became the band’s fourth career Top 10 hit. The song’s title is based on a Southern phrase meaning “being at the end of one’s rope, however Stipe has also stated the lyrics are influenced by unrequited love.Near Wild Heaven” was another single released from the album, co-written and sung by bassist Mike Mills. It was the first such song to be written and sung by Mills. Mills also provided vocals for “Texarkana”. While this was not released as an official “single”, did well on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “Country Feedback” was written as a stream-of-conscious by Stipe who claims he sang it in one take as an experiment and it was not re-recorded. The recording features pedal steel guitar by John Keane. With the success of Out of Time, R.E.M.’s status grew to a top-level, major act from their humble beginnings as a “cult band” on colleg radio. They would continue the momentum into the next year with 1992’s Automatic For the People.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Various ‎Doing It For The Kids

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By 1988, Creation Records was firmly situated as the U.K. indie label -- the one that all others either emulated or reacted against. More importantly, by this time they were varying their roster to the point that the definitive Creation sound of the label's early days -- exceedingly jangly guitars meshed against artless and pitch-poor male vocals -- was only a part of their sound. Early Creation mainstays the Weather Prophets and the Jasmine Minks, not to mention Bobby Gillespie's pre-dance Primal Scream and label-head Alan McGee's own Biff Bang Pow!, still adhere to this style, but Doing It for the Kids also contains the atmospheric proto-shoegazer pop of Heidi Berry's "North Shore Train" and My Bloody Valentine's sublime "Cigarette in Your Bed," as well as the sparky wit of the Jazz Butcher's "Lot 49" and Momus' "A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)." An interesting mix of bands on the verge of greatness (My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream), artists at the top of their game (the Times, Felt, the House of Love), and a few also-rans who never quite built on the promise shown here (Emily, the underrated Razorcuts), Doing It for the Kids shows Creation Records at a pivotal moment.


1Jasmine Minks, TheCut Me Deep
2FeltBallad Of The Band
3House Of Love, TheChristine
4Weather Prophets, TheWell Done Sonny
5Primal ScreamAll Fall Down
6Biff Bang Pow!She Paints
7Jazz Butcher, TheLot 49
8Heidi BerryNorth Shore Train
9Nikki SuddenDeath Is Hanging Over Me
10My Bloody ValentineCigarette In My Bed
11Pacific Jetstream
12Times, TheGodevil
13MomusA Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)
14Emily Reflect On Rye
15RazorcutsBrighter Now

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Various ‎– Sleighed (The Other Side Of Christmas)

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The perfect holiday album for a dysfunctional family gathering, Sleighed is a stocking full of Christmas novelty songs, with a couple of notable exceptions. Renaissance electro-folkie Beck donated "Little Drum Machine Boy," which could very well be an outtake from his album Midnite Vultures (except it was recorded in 1996!), and indie rock godfathers Sonic Youth riff out "Santa Doesn't Cop Out on Dope," both of which were featured on Geffen's 1996 release Just Say Noel. Roasted chestnuts like Bob & Doug McKenzie's rambling "Twelve Days of Christmas" and the heavy duty "Christmas With the Devil" by Spinal Tap are peppered with newer songs by Goldfinger, and the hilarious "I Farted on Santa's Lap" courtesy of Little Stinkers. These chucklers dominate the album, but there are a few real interpretations of holiday songs, the best of which being the Smithereens' earnest blast through "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Fatima Mansions Bertie's Brochures As Requested By Learnandsing

The Fatima Mansions Bertie's Brochures

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Bertie's Brochures, another eight songs, is a mixed bag of stuff that evidently didn't fit elsewhere; its tone is low-key, sad and rueful. R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" becomes a snide hip-hop diatribe against the British government ("go g-go g-go go fuck yourself"), but the condemnation of career terrorism in "Smiling" is anything but frantic, leaving room for a little grief to breathe amid the bile. The title song is a touching little number about a curiously misguided life. Plus, it's all sandwiched between three simple, strong, straightforward songs about the vagaries of (gasp) romance: Coughlan's own "Behind the Moon," Scott Walker's "Long About Now" and Richard Thompson's "The Great Valerio." While not a representative record, Bertie's Brochures is Fatima Mansions' most broadly appealing work.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Fatima Mansions Lost In The Former West US Album

The Fatima Mansions Lost In The Former West

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The final Mansions album almost snuck out instead of being released, with sessions split between regular producer Ralph Jezzard and ex-Talking Heads studio hound Jerry Harrison. Adding to the band's confused discographical tangle, two Valhalla Avenue cuts were appended to the American issue of the album, which still went next to nowhere in terms of any level of attention. A pity, because while the Mansions essentially hadn't changed much beyond its initial mode of feedback-heavy aggro and perversely calm adult-entertainment numbers, the overall performances on Lost were some of the band's best. Coughlan remains the central figure, writing everything with one notable exception and singing with the expected gusto, while his main collaborator O Gruama adds some scraggly, nervous guitar parts to his usual arsenal of amped-up rage. With most of the regular Mansions crew along for the ride, along with some guest performers here and there, the band set out with murder on its mind and specific targets in its sights. "Popemobile to Paraguay" starts with all the bile that an ex-Catholic Irishman could be expected to bring to bear -- by the time it's all over, American foreign policy idiocies and the leftover impact of the Cold War are but two of the other issues addressed with Coughlan's usual bile. If the album was nothing but lectures there'd be little point, but the music is always the winning edge to the Mansions' brew, whether the spooked-out mood into mayhem of "Walk in the Woods" or the calmer "Walk Yr Way." The one non-Coughlan number might have been an inevitable thing for the Mansions to do -- a cover of Scott Walker's shimmering paranoid classic "Nite Flights," here given just enough extra bite while Coughlan delivers a vocal worthy of his hero.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Soup Dragons Hang-Ten US Compilation

The Soup Dragons Hang-Ten

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The Soup Dragons' Hang-Ten! is a clattering rush of indie pop that manages to overcome the weak vocals of Sean Dickson, the rudimentary production, and the sometimes overly simplistic songwriting with a wave of pure teenage energy. Recorded on the heels of the C-86 movement, the record is very much influenced by that scene and the nascent noise-pop sound as well. It is built around the trashcan drums of the Jesus and Mary Chain, the fuzzy but not dangerous guitars of the Shop Assistants, the chirping backing vocals and the shambling feel of bands like the Pastels or the Bodines. Of course it isn't the equal of their influences, but tunes like "Slow Things Down," "Pleasantly Surprised," and especially "Whole Wide World" have a ramshackle charm that puts them just below the first tier of '80s U.K. fuzz-pop bands. The seven-minute long melancholy epic "So Sad ( I Feel)" even makes a case that the band could have transcended their narrow scope if they had gone in that more "adult" noise-pop direction (see the Wedding Present for a band that did) instead of jumping for the mainstream on their subsequent albums. Although its appeal is mainly limited to devoted C-86 enthusiasts and Soup Dragons completists (if such a thing exists), Hang-Ten! is actually a pretty decent record. Certainly it was the best work of a band that went on to release nothing but sub-par records.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Death In Vegas The Contino Sessions Japan

Death In Vegas The Contino Sessions

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In 1963, Andy Warhol said, "I like boring things. I like things to be exactly the same over and over again." Warhol didn't mean that he was bored by things, he meant that the more you look or listen to exactly the same thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel. Richard Fearless, committed Warhol fan, the man who is ostensibly Death In Vegas and the man who has created the most astonishing album you're likely to hear all year, knows exactly what the pop artist meant. He and his Death In Vegas partner, Tim Holmes, know that in music today, meaning is nothing and feeling is everything. It is better to articulate emotion in any form than to try to say something, because there's nothing left to say and it's increasingly difficult to find anything to care about. Listen to 'The Contino Sessions' and you hear the same thing over and over again, but you never get bored; just as Fearless took as this record's blueprint the endlessly looped, piled-upon garage splendour of Spiritualized's 'Electric Mainline': nobody's saying anything. There's no need. If you liked Fearless' first album, 1997's bruising but unfocused 'Dead Elvis', then prepare to be surprised. Because here is a record that harnesses that record's searing, if misdirected energy to its author's love of rock's notorious underclass - the Velvets, The Stooges, the Mary Chain, the Scream, erm, Neu!: outsiders all - and in doing so fashions a curiously tender, black-hearted modern soul classic; the last great record of the millennium, if we're being pretentious. And hell, why not? There's such a paucity of real, transparently obvious talent out there that it's actually a sheer joy to celebrate a record which stays true to its creators' (admittedly rather bleak) grand vision; a record which manages to combine the excesses and inspired musical mandate of both 'Screamadelica' and 'The Velvet Underground And Nico' while maintaining a level-headed, unimpeachable urban cool. And, appropriately in these information-saturated times, 'The Contino Sessions' is an album that means nothing and is purely about the music. Really, it's all about the feeling. It helps, of course, that Fearless has drafted in his heroes and asked them to interpret his music as best they see fit. There's Bobby Gillespie, sneering lines like,"Eggs bearing insects hatching in my mind" over wired narcotic hip-hop on 'Soul Auctioneer', and Jim Reid, although his turn on the decidedly Mary Chain-esque bleached noise of 'Broken Little Sister' is the album's only weak link. And famously, there is Iggy Pop, whose wide-eyed and unrepentant serial killer soliloquy, 'Aisha', complements perfectly Fearless and Holmes' spiked cocktail of defiant AC/DC drumming and mangled Krautrock. His finest moment since The Stooges say many. Er, 'great', mumbles everyone else. There are songs of alluring beauty, too, which serve to dilute the album's otherwise impervious and claustrophobic eau de smack.Like the brittle organ wheeze of 'Lever Street' and the Felt-gone-gospel slo-mo shimmy of 'Aladdin's Story', or 'Neptune City''s deceptively sprightly brass-parping finale, a song that says, shakily, as only instrumentals can, "Well we got there in the end, didn't we? And wasn't it bloody marvellous?"

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Shack Zilch Japan Album As Requested By Mygeneration

Shack  Zilch

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To say Michael Head has had his share of bad luck would be an understatement. Things started off well enough. The Paleys’ take on the guitar ‘n’ trumpet pop of Bacharach and Love sparked a bidding war between labels. They finally signed to Virgin for £150,000, but despite some fantastic singles, including the anthemic Jean’s Not Happening, their biggest hit, Thank You, still stalled just outside the Top 40, at No 46. The band finally split following the death of bassist Chris McCaffrey of a brain tumour in 1986. Zilch was meant to be Head’s big comeback. Now with brother John in the fold, Shack took the West Coast harmonies of the Paleys and relocated them to the English council flat. Again, the band garnered rave reviews. Again they failed to strike it lucky. After Zilch, the story descends into farce: follow-up album Waterpistol disappeared into the ether amid comical tales of burnt-down studios, lost mastertapes and the more serious spectre of heroin addiction. In the meantime, the 90s Britpop boom stole their thunder. By the time their third album proper, HMS Fable, arrived in 1999, they were already being spoken of as the forgotten men of English pop. Songs like Comedy encouraged the NME to hail Head as the country’s greatest living songwriter, but by this time they were middle-aged men who’d missed their shot at the big time. Which perhaps explains why there’s been such a spate of nostalgia for the band of late. There were a couple of Pale Fountains reunion gigs in February and, after a Japanese reissue in 2005, Red Flag records finally rereleased Zilch at the end of last year, meaning their entire back catalogue is now available to the public. If you’re new to Mick Head’s talents, I’d strongly recommend you get yourself a copy of The Magical World of the Strands, a spin-off album from 1997 that consisted of three-quarters of Shack along with Michelle Brown on bass. It’s an album full of classic, whimsical English pop; the sound of perennial Likely Lads growing up with a sense of resigned fatalism. Then, once you realise what the fuss is all about, get yourself Zilch to hear the beginnings of a magnificent band.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Primitives Lovely 25 Anniversary Edition As Requested By Andie

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Formed in the British city of Coventry in 1985, THE PRIMITIVES garnered a following through several singles on their own Lazy Records imprint before signing to RCA for their first studio LP, Lovely. THE PRIMITIVES combined the guitar-based sensibilities of other indie acts like The Jesus & Mary Chain while adding a distinct audio / visual flair thanks to Tracy Cattell’s distinctive vocals and bottle-blonde hairstyle. They are credited with kick starting the niche indie subgenre of “blonde pop.” The album is basically a re-recording of tracks from their earlier singles, but still manages to be a cohesive whole that retains the excitement and energy of not only the original recordings, but still sounds amazing today. This is a great clear and crisp sounding remaster that gives the band the clarity and power that stands out from the twee and boring female fronted indie bands out there nowadays. You get the entire first album, leading off with their most well-known song “Crash”, plus a second CD of bonus tracks that are a treat for fans. Compiled with the help of guitarist PJ Court, this 2-CD compilation also has an annotated booklet boasting rare photos and personal memories from the band. A great first album that has been beautifully remastered, great bonus tracks and still stands up as one of the better albums from its time period…how could you go wrong? I’m glad that Cherry Red got this album back out to the public so that people can get a chance to hear a band at their peak having a great time.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Saint Etienne Foxbase Alpha Japan

Saint Etienne Foxbase Alpha

Also Available Foxbase Alpha Deluxe Edition

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It is likely you have heard first song and lead sing, 'Only love can break your heart'. With its catchy vocal melodies, house piano and snappy drums. A cover of Neil Young, changing the original's Waltz time signature to a 4/4 dance beat, and making the song more instant, and getting the kids dancing. Andrew Weatherall also did a mix of the track, which expanded it to fit emphasize the bass line and fitting in a long dub midsection, which was a big hit in clubs at the time. This record is a great example of how a crossover record should work, a significant part of one genre, should clash with another. On this record the melodies of pop, meet with the sharp song writing of indie, and beats and loops of dance music. Also, while some songs are very welcome on the dance floor, others are more suited for winding down at home. The record is best played as part of your post clubbing ritual, and can be just as essential as some exaggerated stories, someone you met that same night and something tasty to smoke. Because, not only does it include catchy and well written pop songs, but also, a handful of chilled out, Orb inspired tracks, and with most of the songs having a slow pace, and the faster songs being sweet enough so as not to disturb the neighbours, we are certainly approaching, sunrise territory with this record. Sitting comfortably alongside other out there pop records with kooky lady singers such as Portishead and Bat For Lashes, but with the dance influences Bjork, Massive Attack and Tricky as well. Saint Etienne never intended to have single singer as a constant member of the group, all of their previous singles were recorded with different women each time, but they certainly made a good choice picking Sarah Cracknell. Her smooth vocals perfectly compliment the indie dance crossover beats, and she takes on the melodies with ease, turning them into the catchy tunes they should be. This record has wide reaching appeal, especially nowadays that very few indie bands can resist the allure of adding aspects of dance music, just as their Madchester based heroes did. Also, now that dance music has become the centre of modern dance music, fans of current chart music, won’t have to stretch their head too far to get what this group was all about. Also, fans of dance music, won’t have to worry too much about this record sounding dated, so long as they can still enjoy, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and Screamadelica. Basically, if your looking for an intelligent female fronted dance group to fill out your record collection you’ve come to the right place. If you want something great to play an the evening, your bang on as well. If you want something you can stick on while you have a good time with a lady, besides Portishead, Air and Barry White, this is certainly your best choice.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Amorphous Androgynous Mojo Proudly Presents A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind

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Best MOJO disc evah! 14 tracks of new and old psych beautifully sequenced by Amorphous Androgynous (aka Future Sound of London), seamlessly blended to make a singular DJ flow. The best thing is that most of the songs haven't really been altered much, except for editing to make them segue together. No fake rhythm track added either. This might be the most natural-sounding DJ mix of this type I've ever had the pleasure to hear. A few of these songs have appeared on other "Psychedelic Bubble" releases, while others seem to be unique to this set. This one's highly recommended if you can still find the magazine it came with; otherwise the companion releases should remain easy to get for awhile.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Midnight Oil Diesel And Dust

Midnight Oil Diesel And Dust

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It was about time Midnight Oil were officially noticed outside of their native Australia in 1987. The Oils were already a household name in their homeland since the late 70s with their non-compromising, hard edged, and politically expressive rock often dealing with rights, environmental issues, and activism. With sounds of progressive and new wave incorporated, they dominated Australian charts in the early 80s with landmark albums such as “Place without a Postcard” and (the abbreviated titled) “Ten to One”, even without the help of promotional videos. But their first real taste of international success came with “Diesel & Dust”, their 6th full length studio effort, which finally gave the band the recognition they deserved, with the help of the successful single Beds are Burning. Their first record to be released on CBS, “Diesel & Dust” seemed right to fit the bill to reach a wider audience. The edge may have been cleaner but still there for sure, an overall poppier sound is here, and a string of hit singles all supported this cause. However, in classic Oil fashion, their outspoken lyrical beliefs, attitude and energetic presence is still dominant, making for a great starting album for new fans of the band and simultaneously a must-have for longtime followers. Musically, “Diesel & Dust” takes a more ‘new wave’ and melodious approach with its catchy choruses, inclusion of (but not overblown) synthesizers and an overall smooth, sleek sound. From the classic 80s vibe of the anthemic opener Beds are Burning, the mid-tempo, orchestrated Arctic World, to the absolutely enchanting finale of Sometimes, “Diesel & Dust” is a perfect balance of rock, pop and new wave with a staggering, charismatic vocal outing from the towering front man and successful politician Peter Garrett. “Diesel & Dust” is a concept album of sorts, mainly dealing openly with the issues of Aboriginal rights and environmental injustices, nothing the band isn’t familiar with. Beds are Burning talks about giving the aboriginals back their land with lyrics like ‘The time has come, a fact’s a fact, it belongs to them, let’s give it back’ before kicking into the ever-memorable chorus of ‘How can we dance when our earth is turning, how can we sleep while our beds are burning’. And even if one can’t fully grasp the bands lyrics, the message is somehow still delivered regardless. Other tracks continue to support the cause without getting stale and bringing in new ideas that can be relatable to anything. Sometimes, a contender for best on the album, reads ‘Sometimes you’re beaten to the call, sometimes you’re taken to the wall, but you don’t give in’ which supports the bands relentless spirit and outlook. Every aspect of the instruments contributes greatly to the bands sleek driving rock sound. First and foremost vocalist Peter Garrett, whose presence is felt so powerful through record you can almost tell just from listening the man is a giant. His passionate singing (though maybe not instantly accessible) in Put Down That Weapon and frantic yells in the poppy Dreamworld is perfect evidence of this. Peter Giffords dynamic, low key bass lines in Put Down that Weapon are instrumental in the bands sound, just as drummer and backup vocalist Rob Hirst’s nothing out of the ordinary but consistent drumming. The guitar duo of Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie works well often with an electric guitar overlapping an acoustic riff, executed on The Dead Heart. The bands smooth transitions from song to song compliment “Diesel & Dust” greatly. Packed with memorable tunes, there’s hardly a song I would say that could be considered filler. But there sure are the obvious highlights. Lead single Beds are Burning captures the bands ‘building up’ verse to the sing-a-long chorus. Put Down that Weapon builds on the opener but adds a more dramatic, passionate sense to it. The Dead Heart is a classic Oils song with its vocal harmonies, repetitive drumming and acoustic undertones while Sometimes ends the album on a great note with its uplifting guitar riffs and inspirational lyrics. Midnight Oil’s “Diesel and Dust” is an album that sounds as fresh today as it did 27 years ago and one of their finest in The Oils’ lengthy career. 11 songs filled with smart, moving lyrics, upbeat, catchy and at times drearier parts, and an overall captivating output, it’s just an excellent album. I can  say its one of the best albums to come out of Australia,

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Guy Chadwick Lazy, Soft & Slow Japan As Requested By Rany

Guy Chadwick Lazy, Soft & Slow

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How often has a songwriter emerged from a bout of severe writer's block with such remarkable beauty? Former House of Love frontman Guy Chadwick has done just that in this low-key debut -- a gorgeous and seemingly effortless collection of breezy love songs. Many of the tracks would have fit well on any House of Love record; the only differences are the dashes of accordian, keyboards, and pedal steel tastefully added to Chadwick's songs, and the lack of rock guitar. Robin Guthrie's warm production serves these gentle songs wonderfully, and Guy's backing musicians complement him masterfully (Guthrie also played bass on eight songs). Lazy, Soft and Slow breaks no new ground, and nothing here tops such House of Love greats as "Shine On" or "Christine," but that couldn't have been Chadwick's intent. If you adore the Harvest-mode Neil Young or favor the "Pale Blue Eyes" side of the Velvet Underground, this album should warm your soul for many Sunday mornings to come.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Charlatans Us And Us Only Japan As Requested By Iano1 At Turn On Your Record Player

The Charlatans Us And Us Only

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The average American's concept of Britpop is a vision filled with images of Radiohead, Oasis, and Blur. With the release of Us and Us Only, The Charlatans UK (Charlatans everywhere else except the US) have shown that they too are a contender in this musical battle for recognition. And while Tim Burgess's lyrics may never reach the artistic incomprehensibility of Thom Yorke's, and nor will the band members become as recognizable as the often-despisable Gallagher brothers, The Charlatans continue to climb up the Britpop ladder. Us and Us Only is the fifth album from The Charlatans.It is also their first album on MCA, after breaking from indie label Beggar's Banquet. The album continue the natural progression of the band while at the same time dealing with the death of their keyboardist, who was replaced by pianist Tony Rogers. Building melodies around keyboards has always been a standard tactic with The Charlatans,and this album is no different. However, this time around other influences become apparent as well. Such is the case with the album's opener "Forever." Influences of the UK's big beat scene are unmistakably present. Sampled strings, a driving bassline, and a steady drum beat slowly build until Burgess's vocals enter and the song takes full form. Sound layers build, combine, and recede creating the sonic force necessary to introduce this album. Music varies in style throughout the album, running the gamut of haunting mental discharges to earnest acoustic ballads. "Good Witch / Bad Witch 3" is a Stone-Roses-esque blend of Air-meets-Death in Vegas lamentation which leaves the listener at a state of meditative mental stasis, only to be thrown from this stasis by the opening acoustic chords of "Impossible." Throughout the album the band continues to shine. Bob Dylan influences are obvious in some of the acoustic songs, especially "A House is Not a Home" to the point where it would not be surprising if the man himself stepped in for a verse or two. Yet other songs place layers upon layers, incorporating harmonicas, synths, organs, and pianos taking pop-rock music and transcending its boundaries. The Charlatans started out with their own vein of rock, and have continued to stay within that vein. They tread their own ground progressing at their own rate, oftentimes leaving the rest jof the pack behind. While Oasis has continued to remake the same album time and time again and Radiohead progresses so much as to change style on every album, The Charlatans bring back their previous styles and build upon them. Fans of earlier works will be pleased by this album, and for those who are looking for Britpop that is staying up with the times, Us and Us Only is the answer. They have at times been called too hip for alt.rock fans as well as not progressive enough for fans of Britpop innovation, but nevertheless this album is an excellent work - one of their best. It will also be the album to introduce them to an audience larger than their fellow countrymen and those Britpop junkies who have already realized the band's talent.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

INXS Full Moon, Dirty Hearts Japan

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INXS is one of those rare bands who has proved their staying power album after album and tour after tour,With their tenth album, Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, the band doesn't stray too far from the formula that has brought them fame and fortune throughout the world. Their combination of straightforward rock with an R&B flavor—not to mention lead singer Michael Hutchence's undeniable charisma —has brought the formerly struggling Australian band this far, so why mess with success? However, this is not to say that Full Moon, Dirty Hearts isn't a few solid steps forward —both musically and artistically. Tire album definitely rocks. This is perhaps due to the environment in which it was recorded, on the secluded Isle of Capri. Hutchence stated, "It was the kind of atmosphere that we hadn't had in a while—all of us living together. It was very immediate. We could really get things done." Get things done indeed. With the exception of a couple songs ("Freedom Deep" and "Kill the Pain"), INXS get back to their raucous roots on their new album and deliver the highenergy sound, combined with skillful production, that gives the album an extra kick that was missing from their earlier releases, particularly 1990s X. Full Moons, Dirty Hearts is full of great songs, but things really come together on "Please (You Got That...)," a funky duet with Ray Charles. Hutchence and Charles get so down and dirty on this one that the testosterone is almost visible. Other standouts include "Make Your Peace," a radiofriendly track with addictive hooks, and "Viking Juice," which capitalizes on Hutchence's cool and haunting voice that was just made for the spoken word. "The Messenger" is another winner, and as keyboardist Andrew Farriss commented, "was done under reasonably salubrious circumstances in Michael's house." The result is an album that showcases the group's individual strengths. Bassist Garry Beers and drummer Jon Farriss combine to provide the pounding backbeats that power every song, while Tim Farriss, Kirk Pengilly and Andrew Farriss shine as well (although Kirk Pengilly's saxophone talents could have been displayed to a greater extent). On Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, INXS comes full circle, retaining the roughness of their humble beginnings, while taking advantage of the production resources now available to them. This is nowhere better stated than on the track "The Messenger," where Hutchence declares, "Look around/ Give your eyes a new adventure/ What we see/Is a mix of past and future." INXS

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Embrace The Good Will Out Japan

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AT LAST. AFTER ALL THEIR grandiose claims, their futile obsession with Oasis and this record's seemingly endless delays, here's something we can work with. What could have been a debut album of hollow gestures, obsessed with size and choked by pressures, instead offers 1998 the light at the end of the tunnel: an album by a British band that actually stands comparison with 'Definitely Maybe'. Not that it's a similar record. Embrace are the very opposite of the corrosive rock'n'roll sensibility that marked Oasis' debut. 'The Good Will Out' is an album of uplifting optimism that substitutes vulnerability for bravado, and heartfelt sentiment for boisterous thrills. And as such, it more than reflects the characters of those who created it. The McNamara brothers may occasionally appear a perversely worthy duo (professional Northerners, suspiciously teetotal, not renowned for their sense of humour) but without those traits, 'The Good Will Out' would have been a different (and arguably poorer) album. Recorded in Huddersfield - via New York and Abbey Road, London - it has the sound of a record fuelled by love, as opposed to drugs, one they've poured their souls into, and one designed to touch rather than incite the listener. What remains is a romantic, but instantly recognisable, album. With only seven out of the 14 tracks previously unreleased, much of 'The Good Will Out' will already be familiar to most Embrace fans. A cop-out? Well, only if you've already hardened your heart against them. After all, why wouldn't you put all your best material on your debut? Besides, such criticisms appear painfully irrelevant after you've been swept away by the impassioned emotional magnitude of the first half of this record. Beginning with 40 seconds of psychedelic orchestral de-tuning, there's a rattle of kettle drums and then 'All You Good Good People'. Rerecorded yet again, it appears here in its most pristine form to date: an incredible, multi-sectioned symphonic anthem that introduces you to both Embrace's lyrical clarity and epic ability with a chorus. 'My Weakness Is None Of Your Business' immediately follows in an ocean of maudlin strings and keening self-doubt to obliterate any lingering doubts about Danny's ability to either a) hold a tune or b) convey the profoundest emotions. It's also a reminder of why all the truly outstanding moments on this LP are ballads (something we'll return to later). First though, you're lifted skywards by the two magnificent singles - 'Come Back To What You Know' and 'One Big Family' - before reaching the first real pinnacle with 'Higher Sights' and 'Retread'. Doomed and deeply romantic, both these songs reverberate with the same passion as 'Urban Hymns' or any early Bunnymen record. 'Retread', in particular, with its devastating account of a collapsing relationship ("Now I feel so insecure/I can't save something I feel so much for") is proof that Embrace demand to be judged against the greats of British music. Which brings us to the only problem. While Embrace excel at introspection, they're not so confident with crazed hedonism. They were not born rock ュ and even though a new song like 'I Want The World' might fly by in a flailing excess of wah-wah pedals and feedback, it doesn't feel entirely comfortable. The same is equally true of 'You've Got To Say Yes' and 'Last Gas', both sound fantastic, all slashing, needle-sharp guitars and firecracker choruses, but neither take you to the same altitude as the rest of the album. Ultimately, though, it's a minor complaint, because the closing three tracks here are among the most beautiful sounds you'll hear all year. Stately and elegant piano pieces, 'That's All Changed Forever', 'Now You're Nobody' and 'The Good Will Out' are exactly what make Embrace unique. It's hard to think of any other contemporary group who could match the emotional clarity and wavering romance which pierce the spine of these songs, while only the cynical could accuse them of being a contrived attempt to occupy the middle ground between Oasis and The Verve. It just confirms what's always been apparent throughout. This is one of the great debut albums of the 90's.
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