Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gay Dad Leisure Noise

Gay Dad Leisure Noise

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Not since Toad the Wet Sprocket has a band had so much pop potential with such a horrid name. But, if you can get past Gay Dad's ridiculous moniker, an album of intelligent, guilt-free pop pleasure awaits you with Leisure Noise. The hooks of the first single, "To Earth With Love," are just the tip of the iceberg. Taking a familiar formula (the swaggar of 70s glam rock combined with space-age guitars) the group is remiscent of fellow brit rock bands like Ride and Swervedriver, but instead of burying the melodies and lyrics behind a thick wall of sound, Gay Dad's vocal hooks are unabashedly pushed to the fore. With a former Mojo contributer in their ranks, it's obvious the group knows their rock history. The brilliant "Oh Jim" is a textbook power ballad and "Dimstar" and "My Son Mystic, " both songs containing soaring, shimmering guitars, are a lesson for aspiring songwriter's wanting to explore dynamics and tension.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Aztec Camera Stray Reissue

Aztec Camera Stray CD1

Aztec Camera Stray CD2

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A welcome comeback after the flaccid dance-pop of 1987's insipid Love, Stray is among Roddy Frame's most assured and diverse collections of songs. Unlike previous Aztec Camera albums, there's not one unifying style to the disc, and the variety makes Stray one of Frame's better collections. From the assured rocking pop of the singles "The Crying Scene" (the closest thing Aztec Camera ever got to an American hit single) and "Good Morning Britain" (a rousing collaboration with Mick Jones of the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite) to the cool, Chet Baker-ish cocktail jazz of "Over My Head," Frame covers the waterfront, but it's the quartet of songs that constitutes the second half of the album that impress the most. These four songs, "How It Is," "The Gentle Kind," "Notting Hill Blues," and the tender acoustic closer "Song For A Friend," are a loosely connected cycle mingling folk, soul, and pop in varying proportions. Starting with a bitterly cynical denunciation of modern society, the four songs move through sadness and resignation to a hopeful, sweet closure. Shorn of the pretentiousness that mars some of Frame's earlier lyrics -- written, to be fair, while he was still in his mid-teens -- the lyrics on Stray are the first that stand up to Frame's remarkable melodic sense. The simple, low-key production by Frame and Eric Calvi also retreats from the unfortunate excesses of both Love and its misbegotten Mark Knopfler-produced predecessor, Knife. With the exception of Aztec Camera's 1983 debut High Land Hard Rain, this is Roddy Frame's best album

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Beck Sea Change Japan Album

Get It At Discogs

To most of you Beck is known as the musical chameleon who mixes a huge array musical styles, to create alternative pop that is highly unique. In this album however, there is a different side of Beck...the singer-songwriter Beck as opposed to Beck the sonic contortionist. It's a more emotional side...focussing on his voice and his acoustic guitar. Despite the frequent use of an orchestra...the songs on this album are so incredibly naked and's hard to believe it's the same guy who wrote "Where It's At" or "Sexxx Laws". The transition from becoming singer-songwriter seems to have gone very smoothly, while it is anything but. This album is produced by Nigel Godrich...known for his work with Radiohead...and he captures the intimacy of the music perfectly. This album is nowhere nearly as original or complex as Mutations or Odelay...or playful as Midnite Vulture...but it's got some really solid heartfelt songs that are just so brilliantly a degree that this is IMHO Becks best record. In fact this is one of the best records I've ever heard.
The Golden: Age A very nice slow, atmospheric, acoustic ballad...very lullaby-ish. The mood is similair to "No Suprises" by Radiohead...Beck sings the song in a very light, semi-soft tone. You have some really nice backing vocals...who are not too obvious...but add alot to the song. All in all great opener. 4/5
Paper Tiger: This song has some odd production...with the guitar and orchestra parts being produced much sharper and louder...while the drums, bass and vocals have a more muffed production. This song is the closest thing to the experimental Beck on this record. The orchestra provides some cool random melodies now and then. Pretty decent. 3.5/5
Guess I'm Doing Fine:A straight forward, depressing song... I absolutely adore the intro melody of the acoustic's really short but grabs me immediately. Courtesy to the flawless production. Becks sings a bit lower fits the song...which has the feeling of being lost, and lonely...a struggle towards acceptance. The title already suggest about the mood of the song. 4.5/5
Lonesome Tears: Bear with me, I'm a sucker for artsy music...and for those who know me long enough on the forums know it's impossible for me to hate this song. The song is downright's rhythm-based, but melodies are dominated by the orchestra and the vocals. The intro immediately captures how beautiful this song is. The lyrics are something I really relate to. The song isn't as depressing as the title suggests, I interpretate it more as fighting against your sadness. In other words it's a hopeful song. The chorus is very epic wall of violins really...but fortunately they don't overshadow Becks emotional vocals. The most beautiful part of this track is around 1:57....I love the amazing melodies that come right there inbetween before the second verse. In the end the song builds up more and a music orgasm of's like you've been traveling in space and are ready to land. You'll hear what I mean when you hear it yourself. The song carries out a bit too long....but hey...still, a very beautiful song. 5/5
Lost Cause: Big sigh...after the last've earned a breath or two. This is nonetheless another song that does justice as the followup of the first four tracks. It starts with strange electronic soundscapes...but immediately greeted by a lofi beat and the gorgeous acoustic guitars. I love the way Beck sings on this track...he sings in this very somber tone...really effortless, almost as if the words blurt out completely naturally. Very soothing track. 4/5
End Of The Day: Another lullabyish track, a bit more muffed in production. It's got some melancholic guitar melodies and keyboard samples. The opening lyric is already very easy to relate to: "Seen the end of the day come too soon, not alot to say, not alot to do". The song carried on a bit long...but it's still decent. 3.5/5
It's All In Your Mind: The song is mostly just driven by Beck and his guitar...and some cello's. I love the volume in Becks voice, which is hard NOT to notice when he starts can easily tell this is the same producer who did the Radiohead's just magical. It's another beautiful song. 4/5
Round The Bend: Orgasm song number 2...but this one is more timid then Lonesome Tears...but not in anyway less beautiful. It starts slow paced (no drums) with the orchestra in an almost echo-ing production, with a low strumming acoustic guitar. Beck sings in a very emotional crooning perfectly fits this song. The great thing about this is that despite the volume of the orchestra...the song never loses it's intimacy. This is -the- perfect song to fall asleep to. 5/5
Already Dead: As the title suggests...this is another depressing'd think?...but the vocal lines and guitar melody are suprisingly uplifting. The brilliance of this song comes around in 52's hardly noticable. Beck changes the melody very subtlely...without losing flow of the verse melody...and still make the chorus a bit more depressing sounding. It's got some cool country licks after every chorus. I love the way Beck plays in this song...I dunno jack about guitar playing...but judging by ear, the way he progresses the melody in this song is brilliant in my opinion. 4.5/5
Sunday Sun: Orgasm no. 3. The first thing that pops through your head is the simple, yet TIMELESS sounding piano melody. It's been awhile since I've heard such a brilliant simplistic melody. Chris Martin would eat his ****ing HEART out hearing this song. The melody is awesome in the chorus...and the drums are drivven by light percussion. I love the Flaming Lips-esque backing vocals, no wonder they became Becks backing band while he toured for this album. This song is just brilliant by the way. I've lost all words for it. 5/5
Little One: This song starts with a haunting guitar melody that would make Kurt Cobain proud. The amazingness just queus along on this album. Like I said...this song is haunting, full of cool little twists. It switches from arranged the timid guitar driven melodies. Another great song. It's got a really cool music jam near the end with experimental beats and a piano solo...just when you think things couldn't get you really want to keep reading this review? Haven't I glorified things enough?! 4.5/5
Side Of The Road: Apperantly enough. The final track is a quiet acoustic bluesy track. Really nice way to end an album opposed to saving the most orgasmic track for last...this albums just drifts away. "Let it pass on the side of the road". 4/5
I definately recommend buying this album. Hard to go wrong here. It may take a few listens to get a familiarized with all the songs...but once you do, chances are you'll realize how great this album really is.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Primal Scream Vanishing Point Japan Expanded Edition As Requested By FILIP

Robert 'Throb' Young 1965-2014 R.I.P.

Primal Scream Vanishing Point

Get It At Discogs
Primal Scream in 1997 were in a pretty bad position: their excursion into Rolling Stonesy revivalism Give Out But Don't Give Up had been trashed critically, and their position as innovators being threatened. They responded by recruiting the Stone Roses bassist, Gary "Mani" Mounfield, and recruiting Brendan Lynch and their former producer Andrew Weatherall to oversee their return to warped electronic-rock territory. In the process they created another great album.
The album overall The simplest way to describe this album would be Screamadelica thrown through a noir filter. All the previous colour and character has been replaced with a dark, menacing atmosphere and tension. The production for the album is appropriately grimy and the spontaneous nature of the recordings (the album having been recorded in two months with heavy live improvisation) adds to the paranoia.
The songs:  Burning Wheel opens the album with heavily echoed drum machines and a sampled sitar, which give way to a more improvised ambient composition, anchored by a trip-hop beat and punctuated by random layering of sounds. Bobby Gillespie's lyrics, often the band's Achilles' heel, are used well in this context, as a collection of random images that seem to describe a bad trip. The sprawling, rambling arrangement allows the band time to take all sorts of unpredictable twists, yet somehow the song never feels self-indulgent. And as an opening salvo, it's better than "Movin' On Up" or "Jailbird".
The instrumental follow-up Get Duffy is an early highlight, thanks to its seedy main piano riff and its Portishead-imitation groove, constructed from old drum machines, horns, and an eagerly abused filtered echo pedals. At the middle, it takes a darker turn, with dissonant notes and wah guitar. Recommended.
Kowalski is a song about one of the characters from the film the album was named after. It opens with sampled film dialogue, reversed beats and lo-fi synths, turning into a nervous, tense breakbeat-fest. Again, the lyrics work rather well thanks to their minimalism (he just tends to repeat "Like Kowalski in Vanishing Point" or something to that effect), which doesn't detract from the overall mood (although no doubt the song would've worked better as an instrumental). The song too boasts a rambling, improvisatory arrangement, and plenty of industrial, heavy beats. Another highlight.
Star is the first clunker on the album, a dubby, bass-heavy attempt to update Screamadelica's "Shine like Stars". While Augustus Pablo's melodica is a nice touch (reminding one of Gorillaz) and the introduction with just bass and drum machine is sample-friendly, the rest wobbles on its feet. The optimistic, shiny melodies clash badly with the dirty sound, and Gillespie's lyrics are laughable, a platitude-filled tribute to revolutionaries. It begins by asking, "Are you solid as a rock/Have you a strong foundation/Or can your soul be bought", says there's "no greater anarchist" than "the queen of England", and has a limp "Every brother is a star/Every sister is a star" chorus.
If They Move, Kill 'Em rectifies the quality control issue by disposing with vocals and ratcheting up the menace. The introductory high-pitched synth line is more effective than any time Dr. Dre used the same gimmick, the bass is deep as a fountain, and the trip-hop beats are suitably heavy. Duncan Mackay and Jim Hunt return from "Get Duffy" to provide more cheap spy-movie horns. Marco Nelson's basslines are hypnotic, and the structure is chaotic. All of this adds up to another highlight.
Out of the Void is a slow dirge that takes 60s psychedelic influences and smashes them against trip-hop and dub. This time the lyrics are a direct lament from a man stuck in a vicious cycle, and they mesh well with the slow dirge that swirls around Bobby. Martin Duffy seizes the opportunity to do some great Leslie organ solos, and Young's quick guitar licks betray a distinct Stones influence.
Stuka opens with yet more heavily echoed, distorted drums, and another good dub-influenced bassline (again from Marco Nelson, as somehow Mani tends to be underused on the album). A high-tech beat is then layered underneath, the song nicely summoning the atmosphere of a deserted industrial factory at night.
But then the vocals come in, and again derail an otherwise fine mood-piece (conforming to the pattern already set). This time they're heavily processed and vocoded, and more incoherent, thanks to some rambling about how "Jesus" and "a demon" are "in my head like a stinger" and "move from tree to tree". Luckily the damage is not severe, as they disappear for most of the midsection. The song ends abruptly with an echoed flute sample.
Medication is another expected Stones imitation, but this time it boasts a good guitar riff, a pounding backbeat, and assistance from Glen Matlock on bass. Sure, everyone knows by now, Bobby's a bad writer. But this time the lyrics are at least coherent, simplified, and meet a minimal level of quality. Oh, and Robert Young drops in just in time to deliver a blistering solo.
Motörhead is a cover of a song by Hawkwind. Primal Scream take what was presumably a heavy metal original, and apply the Screamadelica twist: stiff dance beat plus distorted guitars. The result is a ragged, chaotic song approaching industrial rock. There are some sore spots: they abuse the white noise generator too much in some parts, and the ending is too sudden and loud. Don't listen to it at maximum volume.
Trainspotting was the Primals' contribution to the eponymous film's soundtrack. The song is obviously influenced by dub and ambient in its monotone construction and emphasis of repetition for hypnotic effect. Again, the song is anchored by a trip-hop beat, and Mani finally gets to cleanly deliver a great bassline. At the 2-minute point a guitar riff reminiscent of Dr. Dre's song "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" is introduced, and repeated throughout. The rest of the band improvise on this theme, many samples and sounds are added, and the song ends before it can turn into an aimless jam.
Trainspotting would've been a great way to end the album, but we get Long Life instead, which suffers from "Star" syndrome at first, attempting to marry clichéd, "positive" lyrics (sample: "Good to be alive/alive/alive/alive") with menacing, acid-trip grooves. Luckily Bobby tunes out quickly, and we're left with the swirling synths, echoed guitars and mechanic drumming. An okay ending for a good album.
Conclusion Vanishing Point was a "comeback" for Primal Scream, and it set their stage for their last great album so far, XTRMNTR. These two albums have proved once and for all that Primal Scream's best material results from their uncanny ability to synthesise electronic music and rock into an inventive, exciting blend.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Cocteau Twins Head Over Heels As Recommended By Dandyboy

Cocteau Twins Head Over Heel

Get It At Discogs
Losing original member Heggie might at first have seemed a troubling blow, but in fact it allowed the duo of Fraser and Guthrie to transcend the darkened one-note gloom of Garlands with Head Over Heels. The album introduces a variety of different shadings and approaches to the incipient Cocteaus sound, pointing the band towards the exultant, elegant beauty of later releases. Opening number "When Mama Was Moth" demonstrates the new musical range nicely; Fraser's singing is much more upfront, while Guthrie creates a bewitching mix of dark guitar notes and sparkling keyboard tones, with percussion echoing in the background. Other songs, like the sax-accompanied "Five Ten Fiftyfold" and "The Tinderbox (Of a Heart)" reflect the more elaborate musical melancholy of the group, while still other cuts are downright sprightly. "Multifoiled" in particular is a charm, a jazzily-arranged number that lets Fraser do a bit of scatting (a perfect avenue for her lyrical approach!), while "In the Gold Dust Rush" mixes acoustic guitar drama into Fraser's swooping singing. Perhaps the two strongest numbers of all are: "Sugar Hiccup," mixing the mock choir effect the band would use elsewhere with both a lovely guitar line and singing; and "Musette and Drums," a massive, powerful collision of Guthrie's guitar at its loudest and most powerful and Fraser's singing at its most intense.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Massive Attack Mezzanine Japan Album As Recommended By Iano1 At Turn On Your Record Player

Massive Attack Mezzanine

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Massive Attack have been one of the most dominant forces in trip-hop music (a genre the (now) duo resent being tied to) since the early 1990s. Along side such contemporaries as Portishead and Tricky, the latter of which the band had a working relationship with on their first two albums, the band have come to define the ‘Bristol Sound’ with sample-heavy music taking influences from such genres as hip-hop and alternative rock. massive attackThe band, on their first two albums, Blue Lines and Protection took influences from dub, soul, hip-hop and electronic genres before tensions within the band grew and alternative rock influences created a rather different sound with the release of the focus of this review, Mezzanine. During the creation of the album, the band were not in consistent contact and, shortly after, founding member Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles left the band; leaving Massive Attack as a duo with Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grantley “Daddy G” Marshall as the duo they are today. It seems that some of the best music in history has been created while band tensions have been at an all-time high. Other examples include Rumors by Fleetwood Mac and The White Album by The Beatles. The band have always had a tight circle of friends that have worked with them on their music. Almost exclusively, these friends have performed vocals on songs. Mezzanine is no different. Throughout the album, guest vocals come from Horace Andy (a reggae singer who has a surprisingly androgynous voice), Elizabeth Fraser (whose vocal, at times, shares idiosyncrasies with that of Beth Gibbons of Portishead) and Sara Jay. Massive Attack, Adam CurtisOn Mezzanine, the band utilise samples from a huge range of genres (only two songs, “Group Four” and “Dissolved Girl” don’t feature samples). Taken from such bands/artists as The Velvet Underground, Ultravox, Isaac Hayes, Quincy Jones and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, samples come from such genres as progressive rock, art rock, blues, new wave and R&B and this variety makes for a greatly interesting sound that hasn’t really been effectively duplicated since (not even by Massive Attack themselves). The album is highlighted by several songs, a few of which have been used in fairly high profile visual media. “Angel”, the opening track on the album has been used to great effect in film, a significant example being the British gangster black comedy ‘Snatch’, directed by Guy Ritchie. The song has an ominous sound to it, with a slow but heavy beat, sparse guitars and sinister vocals from Horace Andy. It’s lyrical content is as minimalist in style as the guitar playing and they create a great feeling of unease. Andy sings “You are my angel / Come from way above / To bring me love” – which in a lot of music would pass as a cheesy pop lyric, but here it sounds as though it’s a melancholy feeling that Horace doesn’t want others to feel. massiveattackAnother stand-out, “Teardrop” was used as the opening and closing music for the American medical drama, ‘House M.D.’ from 2004-2012. Elizabeth Fraser’s vocal here is in stark contrast to that of much of the album as it’s a clean vocal that is nowhere near sinister – if the song’s lyrics were not of such a bleak topic, it would almost seem hopeful. The song, as a whole, is an ethereal piece that is about lost love. It’s a different theme to much of Massive Attack’s music. Interestingly, the group wanted Madonna to sing the vocal; but I for one am happy that the job came to Fraser and she accepted. Further brilliance comes with the song “Man Next Door” – a cover of a song by 60s ska/reggae band, The Paragons. It heavily features a drum loop taken from the Led Zeppelin classic, “When the Levee Breaks”. The strong, unmistakeable beat leads the song in a way that only John Bonham could. The song is in complete contrast to the original – even though it does keep some of the ska/reggae mentalities (like featuring Horace Andy on vocals). It’s electronic sounds are what set it apart from covers done by other artists (such as UB40 and Dennis Brown) as it features a sample of, the The Cure song, “10:15 Saturday Night”. As with all of the best covers, Massive Attack have really made the song their own and you wouldn’t think it was a cover as the piece fits in with the rest of the album seamlessly. One last song I will point out is “Inertia Creeps” – one of the most sinister tracks on the record. Featuring a sample of the Ultravox track, “ROckwrock” from their post-punk/new wave album Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, the song features vocals from band member 3D. While his rapped vocal isn’t as strong as the vocal parts by Tricky on their previous records, it fits very well as his style adds more to the foreboding sounds in the song. Lyrically, the song speaks of how “She comes / I make no sound in my eider-down / Awake I lie in the morning’s blue / Room is still my antenna in you”. With 3D’s vocal, the song is as creepy and inertia inducing as the name would suggest. The overall sound of the song too, with it’s looming bass and hefty percussive sounds, make it a true masterpiece of electronic music. Massive+AttackThe album, as a whole has been hailed as one of the best in the history of music (Pitchfork for example named it one of the best albums of the 1990s) and is possibly THE best trip-hop album ever. One of the band’s contemporaries, Portishead, have come close with all of their three records (Dummy, Portishead and Third), but nothing quite manages to beat Mezzanine. What is so brilliant about it is that, in it’s 63 minutes and 36 seconds, it doesn’t let up, it doesn’t get boring and the sounds present never let the listener move away from the edge of their seat. The consistently paranoia inducing sounds on the album are some of the best you’ll ever hear. The band had never made a better record – and they never have done since. There are confirmed reports that Tricky and the band are collaborating on a new record together and a return to the 90s sound of the band would be hugely welcome as the ensuing records after Mezzanine (100th Window and Heligoland) were not to the high standard as their previous records. What may be needed then, is a reunion with Andrew Vowles as he seems to have taken the band’s best sounds with him when he left. I would highly recommend Mezzanine to any music fan. I have gone through phases of not listening to it for a long time, but every time I come back to it, I’ve found it even more impressive.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Rattlesnakes Deluxe Edition

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Rattlesnakes

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One of the finest debuts of the '80s, and possibly the defining album of the whole U.K. indie jangle scene that also included Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, and dozens of other bands, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Rattlesnakes is a college rock masterpiece of smart, ironic lyrics and sympathetic folk-rock-based melodies. The Glasgow-based band (Lloyd Cole on guitar and vocals, Neil Clark on lead guitar, Blair Cowan on keyboards, Lawrence Donegan on bass, and Stephen Irvine on drums) has a level of interplay remarkable in a group that had been playing for less than two years, and for all the attention given to Cole's hyper-literate lyrics, the album's finest moments are things like the slinky interludes between the wry verses on the Renata Adler-inspired "Speedboat" and Clark's glorious extended solo at the end of the album's finest song, "Forest Fire." Originally released in the U.S. by Geffen but reissued on CD as part of Capitol's acquisition of the Commotions in 1988 (with the original cover, which had been changed for the Geffen release), Rattlesnakes consists of ten perfect, or close to it, pop songs in just a hair under 36 minutes. Kicking off with the group's first U.K. single, the impossibly wordy, stream-of-consciousness "Perfect Skin," the album is basically a series of verbal snapshots of love gone wrong among the overeducated and underemployed. Cole's low-pitched and surprisingly soulful -- for a philosophy student from the University of Glasgow, anyway -- voice flits between earnestness, compassion, and arch derision ("Must you tell me all your secrets when it's hard enough to love you knowing nothing?"), while his lyrics sketch incisive character studies filled with smart and funny one-liners, near-obsessive name-dropping, and references to enough novels and movies for a semester-long pop culture class. The title track, for example, is based on a key image from Joan Didion's stark Hollywood novel Play It as It Lays, and its chorus compares the song's heroine to Eva Marie Saint's character in the film On the Waterfront. In less skilled hands, this would all be unbearably pretentious, but Cole's sly sense of humor and self-mocking wit keep things on the right side of ambitious. The German CD of Rattlesnakes (Polydor 823 683) will be of interest to North American Commotions fans. The disc not only contains the original versions of three songs Geffen had Ric Ocasek remix for the U.S. release (which are also on the Capitol reissue); it also features a unique version of "Forest Fire" with the guitar solo coda extended by nearly 40 seconds and four B-sides from British singles of the period: "Sweetness," the wry Warhol superstars portrait "Andy's Babies," "The Sea and the Sand," and the phenomenal "You Will Never Be No Good." In any incarnation, Rattlesnakes is a classic.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

INXS Welcome To Wherever You Are Remastered

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Kick was a great album, but very much a Faith, or Born In The USA, a runaway train of an album. After experiencing some diminishing returns with the more-of-the-same follow-up X (1990), they wisely decided that a new approach was needed for the next album. With a new producer, Mark Opitz, on board and the sound of Achtung Baby ringing in their ears, INXS were about to produce their most adventurous, and creatively successful album of their career. Like U2 with Achtung Baby (an easy, but appropriate comparison), Welcome To Wherever You Are was an attempt to deconstruct the band’s sound, and rebuild what INXS had to offer, as something fresh, new, and exciting. Bored of stadium rock, the new album would contain pulsing beats from the dancefloor, clever use of percussion, horns and orchestration and even some eastern influences thrown in for good measure. The willingness to change the sound and production of their music was always going to make for interesting listening, but the real success of Welcome To Wherever You Are lies with the quality of the songs. The album really doesn’t contain a weak track and is sequenced brilliantly from the curveball opener that is the sitar and tabla-backed Questions, to the chilly finale of Men and Women. Taste It, Communication, Not Enough Time, Baby Don’t Cry… so many incredible songs, but each with their own identity and sound, from the classic, breezy pop of Beautiful Girl to the only real ‘rock’ moment, Heaven Sent. Everything is performed with such conviction and nothing is predictable or pedestrian. There are delights and surprises all over the record and it is no exaggeration to claim this is one of the very best rock/pop albums of the 1990s, it really is that good. One wishes this album had been a cheeky follow-up to Kick, because INXS had the world at their feet at that point. Instead, five years down the line, and a moderately successful follow-up in between, their audience had shrunk somewhat, and, particularly in the US, they simply failed to ‘get’ Welcome To Wherever You Are. Grunge ruled, and the album was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time with its adventurous sonic textures and ‘anything goes’ attitude. The band also chose not to tour the album, feeling as if they needed a break after some punishing schedules from the previous two records. Probably costly, in terms of US promotion and exposure. In Europe, and particularly the UK, things were quite different. Not only did Welcome To Wherever You Are top the UK album chart, but such was the popularity of the record that five singles were released from it.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Prefab Sprout From Langley Park To Memphis

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From Langley Park to Memphis is Prefab Sprout's spiritual journey into the heart of American culture; obsessed with rock 'n' roll ("The King of Rock 'n' Roll") and Bruce Springsteen ("Cars and Girls"), fascinated with gospel music ("Venus of the Soup Kitchen") and locked in a love/hate relationship with New York City ("Hey! Manhattan"), Paddy McAloon turns an iconoclastic eye to the other side of the Atlantic in order to make some sense of it all. An airy, lounge-pop feel permeates the record, which also sports cameos from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Pete Townshend. Still, while ambitious in both concept and execution, From Langley Park to Memphis pales in comparison to its masterful predecessor Two Wheels Good -- a shortcoming acknowledged by Prefab Sprout themselves with the title of their next album, Jordan: The Comeback.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Zwan Mary Star Of The Sea As Recommended By lano1 At Turn On Your Record Player

Get It At Discogs
It was generally acknowledged that Billy Corgan wasn't just the heart of Smashing Pumpkins, he was their architect, their musical director, and dictator, responsible for every sonic detail of their records and sometimes creating it all on his own. So, when he ended the band in 2000, it seemed a little baffling because he could have carried on with the group forever, since it was his band, and he was responsible for not just their densely layered sound, but also for how the Pumpkins painted themselves into a dark, murky corner with their final album, MACHINA. Remarkably, by breaking up the band, Corgan revitalized himself with Zwan, a supergroup conglomerate that functions more like a band than Smashing Pumpkins, as their superb debut, Mary Star of the Sea, illustrates. Usually, a supergroup winds up as a lumbering, ad-hoc creation that never sounds as good as it reads on paper, but Zwan clicks, partially because Corgan lets his bandmates function as equal partners. As well they should -- by cherry-picking guitarist David Pajo from Slint, guitarist Matt Sweeney from Chavez, and bassist Paz Lenchantin from A Perfect Circle, while retaining Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, he's assembled a nimble, muscular, adventurous group who don't flash their virtuosity, but can take his musical ideas further than his past group. And, yes, Zwan does recall Smashing Pumpkins, primarily because Corgan's voice and his favored method of layering guitars is so distinctive, but he has never sounded this bright, colorful, or free; he has never sounded like he's having so much fun making music. This joyful spirit surges throughout Mary Star of the Sea, even during its many intricate instrumental sections, and it's hard not to get swept up in the momentum, especially since it's married to his best set of songs since Siamese Dream. More than any album since that, it suggests the expansiveness of Corgan's musical vision (Mellon Collie sometimes sagged in its messiness), but there's a generosity here never heard in the Pumpkins, something that comes both from Corgan's writing and his interaction with his new band, which makes Mary Star of the Sea a delight to hear.
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