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.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Echo & The Bunnymen Evergreen

Echo & The Bunnymen Evergreen

Also Available Evergreen Limited Edition

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The cover alone is a dead giveaway, echoing as it does the cover of Crocodiles, with what looks like a set of trees and a car in place of De Freitas. But that telling and unavoidable absence alone puts the promise and problem of Echo's comeback album in perspective -- McCulloch and Sergeant had been working together again and Pattinson returned to the fold, but without De Freitas something remained unavoidably absent. Replacement drummer Michael Lee fills in adequately but not completely, rendering what was a special group something less so. The remaining core three discharge their duties well enough, but the focus is unavoidably on McCulloch this time around, rendering Sergeant and Pattinson to the status of talented backing players and making Evergreen seem like an extension of McCulloch's solo career more than anything. While Sergeant in particular shows many flashes of the brilliance of Echo's first phase, his work is more conventional here, perhaps the result of his experimental tendencies with his solo project, Glide. As an album Evergreen is closest to Ocean Rain due to the liberal appearance of the London Symphony Orchestra throughout, sometimes with impressive results, though without achieving the total heights of artistry of that earlier collection. There's nothing quite like "The Killing Moon" or "Ocean Rain" itself this time around. For all that, when Evergreen shines at its best, it's still an attractive piece of work. The album's most successful number, the gently epic "Nothing Lasts Forever," gets an extra boost from an uncredited backing singer, Oasis' Liam Gallagher, while "I Want to Be There (When You Come)," the title track, and the moody "Just a Touch Away" kick up some smoke.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Pet Shop Boys Introspective

Pet Shop Boys Introspective

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How can you not love an album with a cover as iconic as this? Introspective was the first Pet Shops Boys album (and 25 years later still one of the few) not to feature one of them in some shape or form on the cover, indicating that this was an altogether different proposition. And it was. Consisting of only 6 tracks it initially feels more like an EP, although as each track weighs in at at least 6 minutes, there is still plenty to enjoy. At the time, Neil Tennant marked Introspective as the end of their “Imperial Phase”, expressing disappointment when Domino Dancing, released shortly before the album, only charted at number seven while it’s two predecessors had managed to get to number one. In hindsight, he shouldn’t have worried, apparently Introspective is their second biggest selling album to date.For a brand new album, only two of the songs are original to it. I Want a Dog had already appeared as a b-side, It’s Alright and Always on My Mind were covers, while I’m Not Scared was originally written for Pasty Kensit’s Eighth Wonder. This left only Domino Dancing and Left to my Own Devices to be considered as new material.Introspective is the Pet Shops Boys at their widescreen best and it is my favourite of their albums. Although essentially a 12″ remix album the scope of the songs more than matches any of their more traditional efforts. There are two stand outs.Trevor Horn’s paws are all over opener Left To My Own Devices with it’s multi-layered orchestral sweeps and stabs, urgent bass line and insistent Italian House piano riff, while Neil’s interior monologue owes a debt to A Day in the Life. This song apparently took months to get right. It was time well spent.Always on My Mind/In My House is a rerecording of their contribution to an Elvis tribute tv programme in 1987 which became their best selling single to date and that year’s Christmas number 1. Compared to the earlier single release, this begins as a much starker affair, driven along by a bubbling, acid bass and house-y keyboard refrain missing from the original and giving more room for Neil’s vocals. However, just as the tracks begins to layer and you start to piece together the original, things get darker as the trance-y In My House appears,Introspective proudly sits alone in the PSB canon. It’s not a conventional studio album like Please, Very, Bilingual, et al. It’s not a remix album (the Disco series) nor a compilation (Discography, Alternative, PopArt, Format….) or a live set (Concrete, Pandemonium). It just is what it is. Take it or leave it. But take it. Obviously.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

NME Priceless Creation

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From 4AD to a celebration of Alan McGee's iconic Creation label..
1. Acquiesce - Oasis The band that saved Creation, Oasis were one of those rare bands that became so huge that their B sides often gained as much attention as their A Sides. This was perhaps their most famous example and the Acquiesce's status is now arguably greater than it's A Side, Some Might Say, which became the band's first #1 n 1995. Acquiesce was released as a promo single in anticipation of Oasis' B-Side compilation, The Masterplan, in 1998, and, confirming its classic status, was put out again as the lead single of the Stop The Clocks EP in 2006, a precursor to the collection of the same name. It seems Acquiesce was never destined to be a hit in its own right though; the length of the EP meant it was ineligible for the UK singles chart denying it a place in the Top 5.
2. Star - Primal Scream Or not, as we'll see in a moment... Primal Scream released two singles in a month in May 1997 to promote their masterpiece Vanishing Point. Perversely the first release, the massively uncompromising electro-dub racket Kowalski fared better in the charts, hitting #8, than the more commercial, by the Scream's standards, Star, which stalled at #16 despite extra airplay and performances on TV. Hailed as a return to form after the Stones-aping Give Out But Don't Give Up, Vanishing Point charted, like its predecessor at #2. To this day, Primal Scream are defined by the pioneering Screamadelica, yet it's this album that remains their best and most satisfying release to date. Some months after Vanishing Point's release came Echo Dek, a dub overhaul of the entire album remixed by Adrian Sherwood. One of the tracks, Revolutionary, was a reworking of Star and it's this version that appears on this Free EP despite the credits suggesting it should be the original version.
3. Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside) - My Bloody Valentine Although the early 90s shoegazing movement took inspiration from early to mid 80s bands such as Cocteau Twins, Jesus & Mary Chain and This Mortal Coil, it's My Bloody Valentine, led by Kevin Shields, and their first album Isn't Anything, who are credited with kickstarting the movement. The album, kicking off with this track, with its droning, psychedelic trance-like take on indie rock, spent 17 weeks on top of the indie chart and spawned a myriad of copycat bands. Ironically, it was the band's second album, Loveless, that helped kill shoegaze. It was so good that it made the work of every other shoegaze band seem very old hat very quickly and the music press soon moved on to pastures new. Always destined to be a critical rather than a commercial success, the crazy amount of money spent on producing Loveless typifies the madness surrounding Creation at the time and, never mind shoegazing, the album nearly killed off the label.
4. Mellow Doubt - Teenage Fanclub Despite nearly going to the wall, 1991 was a good year for Creation Records Product. As well as Screamadelica and Loveless, there was Bandwagonesque, Teenage Fanclub's third album, a massive crirtical and modest commercial success. After the relative of failure of the follow up Thirteen came Grand Prix in 1995 which became the band's biggest success to date hitting the Top 10. Although little to do with "Britpop", their chiming Big Star and Byrds-esque guitars and melodies sat well in the climate and the album spawned two Top 40 hits, Sparky's Dream and this, which hit #34. Despite achieving their greatest successes in this era, and referenced by many as influences, Teenage Fanclub were one of the era's great underachievers and despite further minor hits, never properly broke through unlike those they had influenced - see Travis. In a late twist, in 2004 an episode of The Bill aired on ITV and featured four characters - Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, Paul Quinn and Gerard Love. Teenage Fanclub may not have sold a million in the UK, but several million probably watched this. Sadly, only about 7 people realised the scriptwriter's little in-joke...
5. Free Huey - The Boo Radleys Never has a band, with the possible exception of Cornershop, been so misunderstood by the mainstream media and general public than the Boo Radleys, forever associated with one piece of music. You know the one. Sadly, that track, despite hitting the Top 10, earning songwriter Martin Carr enough money to retire on and spawning a #1 album was a pyrrhic victory. By the time the band released the noisy, experimental and frankly brilliant follow up, C'Mon Kids a year later, the older fans who had been captivated by 1993's magnum opus Giant Steps and earlier feedback drenched noise rock classics had ungraciously moved on after their commercial success and the new fans just didn't get it expecting Wake Up Boo Mk2. The result was the biggest shame in 90s music as, despite three Top 40 hits, the album stalled at #20 and disappeared after only a couple of weeks in the chart. Knocked for six, the band recorded their sixth album Kingsize featuring less experimentation and more structure and melody. Told by Creation to record two commercial singles before the album could be released, Carr came up with the stellar title track and this, Free Huey, which was released as the album's lead single. A risky single incorporating big beats and a shouty chorus, which accounted for two thirds of the song, it bombed and charted at a lowly #54. After the album disastrously peaked at #62 a couple of weeks later, the band called it a day leaving the second single, the title track unreleased. A soaring, anthemic track, if this had been the lead single, it could have saved them. A lost classic indeed. A rare 5 track promo of what would have been the tracks spread across 2 CD singles does exist and this counts as the final Boo Radleys release in the band's lifetime.
6. This Is My Hollywood - 3 Colours Red 3CR were much derided, mostly thanks to Alan McGee's over the top hyperbole when he announced that they were the most exciting band since the Sex Pistols. What he failed to mention was that 3CR were a pretty perfunctory punk rock band. Still, McGee's hype helped them achieve 4 Top 40 hits from their debut album Pure. This Is My Hollywood was the band's first release on the Fierce Panda label in 1996 and was re-released as the fifth single from the debut album in 1997 where it stalled at #48.
7. Love Is Blue - Edward Ball Former Television Personalities frontman Ed Ball must have been a good friend of Alan McGee who let him release a bunch of albums as Love Corporation on the imprint throughout the 90s. When it was finally decided that Ball should trade on his own name, all the stops were pulled to make sure he finally achieved the success McGee felt he deserved. Despite much promotion including saturation on the ITV Chart Show with videos featuring the likes of Anna Friel and Noel Gallagher, the campaign failed. Four singles were released from the album Catholic Guilt, only two of which reached the Top 100 including Love Is Blue which hit #59. The album failed to scrape the Top 200 and Ed stopped trying to be famous.
8. JC Auto - Sugar Following the break up of the hugely influential Husker Du, frontman Bob Mould formed Sugar and had immediate success with their classic debut Copper Blue which hit the UK Top 10. Not all the tracks recorded for the Copper Blue sessions were included on the album, the heavier material held back for an EP release the following year. The EP, Beaster, did even better reaching #3 in 1993. The album being loosely based on religious imagery, JC Auto is short for Jesus Christ Autobiography. Sugar recorded one more album, File Under Easy Listening before Mould went solo. 
9. Cracking Up - The Jesus & Mary Chain JAMC were among the first signings to Creation and in 1984 released their infamous debut single Upside Down. The sound of this, and their debut album Psychocandy, set a new template for a new generation of indie bands where feedback and noise were of equal importance to the tune - this manifested itself in the shoegaze movement kickstarted by My Bloody Valentine. Despite not charting, Upside Down sold consistently and was a major success story for Creation. On the back of this, the band were signed to blanco y negro where the band stayed for the next decade. Always on the brink of implosion, the band had one more album left in them before they would self destruct and who better to pick it up than Creation where it all started. The writing was on the wall though. Cracking Up was the comeback and the album's lead single and hit #35. The poppier I Love Rock N Roll similarly only scraped the Top 40 and the album Munki only scraped the chart at #47. A decade later, they'd be back....
10. Gathering Moss - Super Furry Animals The last great band to sign to Creation, SFA released their debut album Fuzzy Logic in 1996 featuring this track. Never a band to be categorised, SFA started life as a techno band - roots which have never gone away - before picking up their guitars and releasing two effervescent EPs on the Ankst label before releasing their debut single Hometown Unicorn on Creation. Although this just missed the Top 40, they'd have no trouble with their next 19 proper single releases which all charted in the 40. Trouble is, they also set themselves an unwanted record; SFA became the band to have the most Top 40 singles - twenty - without ever reaching the Top 10. The closest they got was their 1999 single Northern Lites which reached #11 and they've also hit #s 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18.
Artist: Various Title: Priceless Creation Format: CD5 Label: New Musical Express Catalog Number: NME-CRE 1999 Date Recorded: Jan-Feb 1992 Release Date: 25 Sep 1999 Notes: Giveaway with NME.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Monaco Monaco As Requested By Brian

Monaco Monaco

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Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in. Cpt Peter Hook - dogged bass renegade, part-time New Orderly and stubblesome leader of the indie-pop resistance - was never one for easy surrender. A lesser man would've crumbled under the weight of appalling circumstance that has plagued his 'pet' project Monaco. The sniffy reviews, the threat of mutiny (his singing/strumming foil David Potts auditioned for a role in the post-Guigsy Oasis) and the ultimate humiliation of being dropped by his record label never exactly bade well for the long-term. Yet against all odds, here they are again, brandishing the weapons of indignation and clinging like lichen to that stratum forever marked 'indie lite'. But things have changed round Monaco's way. Where their 1997 debut 'Music For Pleasure' revelled in its post-Britpop earnestness, 'Monaco' is simply an album of and about Pop. And, disengaged from the suffocatingly self-conscious 'indie' supply that rendered 'Music...' so trying, it's a truly lovely thing to behold; a pretence-free, summery shimmy through pop's enchanted garden, with tear-tugging Bacharachy bits and choruses of angels and everything. From the swaying, early Pulp-ish Cinemascope of 'End Of The World' to the Motown matinie heartbreak of 'Ballroom', there's little here we haven't heard before. Even breezy drum'n'bass (drum'n'bass!) closer 'Marine' sounds like Erasure. Yet, crucially, 'Monaco' is both immaculately conceived and perfectly, almost indecently sincere; an album that's happy - not gormlessly, but quietly and assuredly happy - with its lot. What's more, 'Monaco' harnesses brilliantly the universal power of the platitude - a force only operable in the very best pop music that renders lines like, "The only thing I care about/Never will come true" (from single 'I've Got A Feeling') sweet and sad and infinitely more affecting than any amount of pseudo-profound art-rock blubbery. And throughout it all, there's that bass, catching everything in its undulating undertow and sweeping us back to a time when all pop music was this heartfelt, this honest. It's not about progression, after all, it's about doing what you want to do. It's about taking a stand as they say,

The Aliens Luna As Requested By Barry

The Aliens Luna

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Definition of Alien: 
Foreigner: a person who comes from a foreign country.
Stranger: anyone who does not belong in the environment in which they are found.
Extraterrestrial being: a form of life assumed to exist outside the Earth or its atmosphere.
I would argue that 'The Aliens' fall under all three variations of the definition. The Aliens, former Beta Band members Gordon Anderson, John Maclean, and Robin Jones, all hail from Scotland. Their outlandish sound makes it difficult to place them today's music scene, essentially making them a stranger to the industry. And their sound is so unique and 'out of this world' that one has to question as to whether or not they are actually from this planet.
In 'The Aliens' sophomore effort 'Luna', the album opens with the track:
Bobby's Song 
A harmonica lays down the feel for the song and is soon accompanied by a melodic guitar riff. Soothing vocals ease in to take turns with the harmonica singing "Come sing along now it's the bobby's song / Something that I want to say / I'll never let you walk away / I'm gonna to write you a song today." The verse is repeated once more followed by an electronic breakdown into more guitar licks. These licks are strummed out while Gordon Anderson backs with harmonious vocals. The song continues to digress into a slightly more electronic direction when suddenly at the 4:18 mark it transforms into a Polka dance. Rapid fire lyrics bounce with the the beat of the song. Transition after transition, the song finally climaxes at the 8:50 mark and slowly fades away for the next 2 minutes.

Originally this track was said to be a mashup of many tracks they had written. They decided to combine them all together which resulted in a 30 minute song. Obviously the final version was cut down to 10:26.(4,5/5)
Organs seep in for the next track. Chanting vocals boom as you faintly hear a cassette tape being loaded. The transition is ready. A short but sweet track that paves way for the next. (5/5)
The cassette plays. An almost oriental sound is paired with strings as vocals sing "Theremin / She was a big heartbreaker / Theremin / Knew in the end he'd take her / Theremin / Why did I make and break her / Theremin / Nobody could remake her." The tape is removed. You hear walking and cars passing by. You enter a vehicle and the tape is placed into the car. Theremin is played but much more simplistic. All you hear are the sounds of passing cars along with a lone piano. A truly unique and beautiful track.(5/5)
Bursting into the airwaves is a much more upbeat piano. Build up to vocal harmonies saying "Everyone / They're in the sunshine / Everyone / Go get the sunrise in the morning." A very happy track, acting as a counter to the sad sounding Theremin.(4.5/5)
Magic Man 
Mellowed out power-chords methodically burst in and a keyboard bounces along. The lyrics "I just want to take you to the sun / Gonna get out of here / Gonna take you where you want to go / You can follow the sun" are delivered sing-along style. Eventually we are led to the chorus "Magic / Magic / Magic Man / Watching the space wherever you can go / Bake me a cake and I'll do a handstand / Anywhere you want to go you can come and let me know". Spritz in a nice solo halfway through it becomes clear that this track is supposed to be the single. A very easy listen at first but in the end I find this to be the most shallow track on the album.(3.5/5)
Billy Jack 
In comes a rock ballad. This track is really an epic journey through social rejection and the eventual fighting escape from insanity. "Lost inside chasms of my mind / They go on / They go on / Forever". A crowd cheers, the ballad has begun. "Tell me when your gonna rest with your mind". Epic. Words do this song no justice. Melodies, harmonies, lyrics, emotion, solos, and just plain rockin' parts.(5/5)
Spacey sounds. This track really fails to even sound like it is song. It seems to be more of an interlude or intermission for the album. Somewhat interesting of a listen. Similar concept to the track "On the Run" by Pink Floyd on Dark Side of the Moon.(2/5)
Dove Returning 
A slightly sad, mostly indifferent soundscape is laid out before us. Vocals barely stand out from the instrumentals. Then kicks in the best solo on the album. Something about this solo seems to be dripping with emotion. A very bittersweet track which is made by the second half.(4/5)
Sunlamp Show 
Another happy go-lucky song kicks in. A poignant piano jumps across our ears as the bassline bumbles alongside. Gordon Anderson sings "I tried to be there / I tried to be everywhere" as he infects our ears with pure, unadulterated optimism. Midway through the song breaks down into a jig and the vocals go "I let you go / Now I feel the show / Everyone now / Gonna get down / To the Sunlamp Show". The song slowly but surely plays itself out.(4.5/5)
Smoggy Bog 
A fast paced and chaotic song. I didn't enjoy this track and thought it didn't fit at all.(1.5/5)
A keyboard creates a texture of sound that sets a very serious mood. The guitar slowly strums out a melody that is a near perfect match. In roll the vocals that only add to this dream we are in. As the song progresses, strings and chanting come in to amplify the mood. As the all the instruments begin to fade, the strings stay strong to finish out.(5/5)
The guitars on this track forever compliment the spacey lyrics "You think only boats can sink but you can't get in the harbor". Guitars layered on guitars layered on guitars to fabricate the most elaborate of songs. A true gem.(5/5)
Blue Mantle 
Strings sadly sing as you hear over a communication device "Space calling fighter X / If you look inside your suitcase / You will find your magic tie". In comes Anderson's prominent vocals "I lived in a house on the other side of the moon / Where the people drive in the greenest life / In the greenest life / I sailed in a boat / To the other side of the sun / The people were pleasant there too / I swam the milk / On the way I drank a star / I could not find a place to stay". The spacey backdrop to the vocals creates a pure and awesome atmosphere. The song provides a sweet ending to the album with a reprise of 'Bobby's Song' in the closing minutes. Couldn't have imagined a better way to close out the album.(5/5)
When you combine the myriad of strange and foreign sounds on this album, you can conclude that it is beyond unique. As the album progresses and your ears peel back layer upon layer it is revealed that there is something of true substance. These former Beta-Band members have crafted something beyond it's time and place. So give this album a spin and remember, The Aliens have landed.
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