Saturday, 30 May 2015

Pet Shop Boys Alternative Japan As Requested By Cren


Pet Shop Boys Alternative CD1/CD2

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Alternative, a double-CD set, does much more for PSB fans than Discography. The former not only covers songs/mixes usually found solely on singles as b-sides, but it covers a greater portion of their career. Collectively, the 36 songs on Alternative show us a different side of the Pet Shop Boys--a side that is more experimental, and yet, more personal - that previous albums have not shown. Lowe remarks, "We've always used the b-side as a way of learning to produce. When we started, the b-side was where we learned to do things ourselves. So it wasn't a throwaway, ever. It's been fundamental to how we progress." This compilation is a showcase of that progression, which becomes more evident upon comparing old and new tracks. "That's My Impression", one of the Boys' first songs, seems rather flat next to the vibrant "Euroboy" or the eerie "Some Speculation". But upon closer inspection, "Impression" is really just a humorous song, no matter how serious it may sound. This is a fine example of how PSB songs can reshape themselves to fit the era or the listener's mood. "I Want A Dog", a song supposedly about loneliness, is "funny," according to Tennant, "but it's also serious and true at the same time." So in this way, no one track can really be deemed better than another--only less serious, less intense, etc. With the lyrics they write for b-sides, Tennant and Lowe must feel like mini-psychologists or some other form of wise men. "Your Funny Uncle" is a crushingly sad song Tennant wrote about the funeral of a close friend. "We Feel Better In the Dark" is a song about 
clubbing, sex, and/or ugliness. "Miserablism" is ultimately a witty put-down directed at cynicism, while "Jack the Lad" explores the advantage of being mentally unstable or ignorant. "Shameless" is one of the most gloriously satirical tunes ever ("We're shameless / we will do anything / to get our fifteen minutes of fame"). "Violence", a melancholy number, is well offset by "Losing My Mind", (also given to Liza Minelli) an upbeat song about heartbreak. From the orchestral "Overture to 'Performance'", to the song about Hitler, "Don Juan", to the experimental "The Sound of the Atom Splitting" Alternative shows us songs written via the extreme moods of Tennant and Lowe as well as songs that could just as easily be found on their "normal" albums. Not only does Alternative give us a clearer picture of the psychology behind the music of the Pet Shop Boys (a group proudly accepting the label "pop"), but it also serves as a tapestry of club life over the past ten or so years, a "historical record of contemporary dance music," in Lowe's words. Consequently, it is one of the top five most important albums of this year and certainly belongs in the collection of anyone respecting the art of songwriting.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Day One Ordinary Man As Requested By Filip


Day One Ordinary Man

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Day One's debut album, Ordinary Man, captures the group's unique fusion of folk and hip-hop storytelling traditions and eclectic electronic/acoustic arrangements. The album ranges from blue-eyed hip-hop like "Walk Now, Talk Now" to simple, affecting piano ballads like the title track, but Mario Caldato, Jr.'s straightforward production and vocalist Phelim Byrne's appealing, unaffected singing and rapping hold it all together. Shuffling trip-hop beats provide a laid-back foundation for most of the songs, but the group adds catchy, humorous lyrics and hooks on "Trying Too Hard" and "I'm Doing Fine," baggy-inspired keyboards on "Bedroom Dancing," and folky guitars on "Autumn Rain," adding to the album's diverse-yet-cohesive appeal. The cheerful, pop-tastic "In Your Life," the yearning, acoustic "Love on the Dole," and the breezy "Waiting for a Break" are among the other highlights of Ordinary Man, an impressive debut that places Day One in the ranks of groups like Cornershop and the Beta Band -- able to reinvent the pop lexicon but never forgetting to write good songs in the process.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Inspiral Carpets Life Extended Edition


Inspiral Carpets Life Extended Edition

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You can’t beat a bit of nostalgia – and few bands shout ‘1990’ like Inspiral Carpets. Emerging from the same Madchester scene that produced the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Charlatans, their heady blend of garage rock, psychedelia and that 60s-style Farfisa organ marked them out as ‘baggy’ pioneers. Their seminal album Life came like a breath of fresh air at the end of a decade mired in miserable indie-rock and synthetic Stock, Aitken and Waterman production-line pop. Featuring the talents of Abingdon lad Tom Hingley, it stands the test of time, still representing what frontman Clint Boon described as “working class Oldham meets timeless garage pop”. On this re-issued extended edition of the 1990 album, while those too young to have danced around to it in Paisley shirts and flares at the time, should be required to listen to it as a document of an era when pop became cool. Featuring the epic This is How it Feels and the uplifting She Comes in the Fall, it carries the listener along on a wave of tie-dye optimism. This reissue comes as a package with a host of must-haves which alone warrant a purchase: their first EPs Planecrash and Trainsurfing, and 1988’s John Peel Sessions.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Doves Lost Souls US Album


Doves Lost Souls 

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Hailing from the scene that brought the defining sounds of the Smiths, the Stone Roses, Oasis, James, and the Charlatans UK, Doves is another Brit-pop band playing around with depressing lyrical imagery and embryonic soundscapes that made the Mancunian circuit so popular throughout the '80s and '90s. Gloriously basking in the ethereal ones before them, their debut Lost Souls is a shoegazing twist of emotional bliss. Music hasn't sounded so heavenly since Radiohead and The Verve. The dozen-track look into streaming psychedelia taps into melodic waves of love lorn and sadness, especially on songs like "Rise" and "Lost Souls." The mood rouses and the positive clamor of "The Cedar Room" becomes the album's brassy anthem, very Oasis-like. Frontman/bassist Jimi Goodwin drools like a swooning Damon Albarn during "Here It Comes" and whooshing guitar licks from Jez Williams recall the sounds of Noel Gallagher. NME boldly claims it as the best debut album since Definitely Maybe. They're onto something good. If only Liam and Noel could calm down a bit and find that mesmerizing nature once again. [In October 2000, Lost Souls was issued in America on Astralwerks with three added bonus tracks not included on the original version]

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Supergrass In It For The Money Limited Edition



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The Top 5 single Going Out, released in February 1996, made it resoundingly clear that Supergrass are much more than a three-man Britpop Playstation. While many anticipated a mouthful of chewy nougat tasting not disimilar to Alright, the band instead delivered an antsy, organ-powered eye-opener that swivelled outrageously on a 14-bar passage of brass straight out of Memphis. Fourteen months later, Supergrass now present their first album-length masterpiece. In It For The Money, the follow-up to the Number 1 debut, I Should Coco, contains 12 songs - including Going Out - of rare and absolute charm. Every track is instantly loveable: the roaringly empowered Sun Hits The Sky has you singing along within seconds; some, like the utterly perfect ballad Late In The Day provoke the just-can't-help-but-grin impulse of Mr Blue Sky's "Hey you with the pretty face" segment, or Oh Yeah by Ash, or Jet by Paul McCartney & Wings. There is no veneer of grandeur; they don't attempt a Pet Sounds II or anything. Assisted by co-producer John Cornfield, Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn and Danny Goffey basically just put their chords and their phrases together intuitively, uncannily and unforgettably. The additional touches are ingenious: the beautifully laid-back Hollow Little Reign has a delicious wah-wah guitar solo; Tonight has one of the most thrilling rock 'n' roll brass arrangements since Bitch by The Rolling Stones and Coombes's keyboard-playing brother Rob is a sucker for those goofy seabird synthesiser noises on Ian Dury's Wake Up And Make Love To Me. Looking for direct influences is hardly the point, but, for what it's worth, you may hear nods towards Crosby Stills Nash & Young (G Song has its root in Ohio). The Who, Can and even Django Reinhardt. The opening title track pulls off six terrific power pop flourishes, one of which recalls Cheap Trick. But as the song is yanked away by an astonishing edit, there's no time to think and we're straight into the turbulent first single, Richard III. Even on the slow songs, three unexpected chords can bounce you from England to America and back. Does it lack an Alright? Yes, but it isn't missed. While so many bands are making albums to flummox their fans, or to confront their public perception, Supergrass have sneaked up on the blind side with a Rubber Soul, an album to be played everyday in any circumstances. Joyfully and infrectiously "on" in all departments, In It For The Money will simply be adored by everyone who hears it.This incredible sophomore effort contains 12 tracks through which there is never a dull melody. Instead, you get an intense rhythmic assault and crazy-ass sideburns. If you're on the ball, you'll also get a free, limited-edition bonus CD including 9 previously unreleased tracks.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Electrafixion ‎Burned


Electrafixion Burned

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It all started so swimmingly for Ian McCulloch’s solo career; he stepped out of the gate with the success and acclaim of his 1989 debut, Candleland, and everything looked rosy as all get-out…but then came 1992’s underwhelming Mysterio, and, suddenly, the critics had their claws extended for shredding purposes. How convenient, then, that at approximately the same juncture, McCulloch’s former collaborator, guitarist Will Sergeant, had decided to stop flogging the dead horse that was Echo and the Bunnymen – what was he thinking by trying to replace Ian, anyway? – and embark on a new chapter of his music career. Time for a bit of fence-mending, eh, blokes? Actually, we’re leaving out a very important part of the story, and one which ties directly into the reconciliation. McCulloch didn’t entirely give up on the idea of a solo career after the duff reviews for Mysterio; after taking a break to enjoy some downtime with his wife and kids, he’d actually done a fair amount of songwriting and recording with none other than Johnny Marr, making claims to the press that their work together had revitalized him creatively. Unfortunately, the album’s worth of song sketches they’d completed were almost entirely lost to the ages when they were stolen from a courier van – or, at least, that’s how the official story goes. There’s a concurrent version, however, which suggests that Marr got pissed when McCulloch suggested bringing Sergeant in to work on the songs and refused to release the masters. Whichever version of the tale you choose to believe, when McCulloch and Sergeant emerged with their new collaboration – a band called Electrafixion, with Tony McGuigan on drums and Leon De Sylva on bass – only two of the 11 songs on their debut album bore a Marr co-writing credit, and Marr himself was nowhere to be found on the disc. At the time of its initial release, the what-might-have-been aspect of the album was hard for the press to ignore, given that those Marr co-writes (“Lowdown” and “Too Far Gone”) were among the best of the bunch, but time has been surprisingly kind to Burned, McCulloch had, to the surprise of many of his peers, really dug a lot of the grunge stuff that was coming out of Seattle; fortunately, he had one of the best axe-men in the business by his side, and Sergeant wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty for a change. The classic Bunnymen sound isn’t completely gone – it’s extremely evident at the beginning of “Timebomb” in particular – but the operative word is definitely “change,” since there’s nothing even remotely as hard as this album anywhere else in either of these guys’ résumés. The feedback-laden guitar attack begins up front with “Feel My Pulse,” and, in truth, it never really lets up. Sergeant takes full advantage of his opportunity to turn it up to 11, and even the ostensibly “lighter” tracks still bear a nasty edge throughout. (It sounds like he phoned in the solos on “Sister Pain” from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – and I mean that in a good way, but you’d have to hear it to really understand.) McCulloch, meanwhile, exercises his right to put on an angry growl when appropriate, but his vocals remain smooth even when the material around them is rough. Unfortunately, despite critics more or less enjoying the album, Burned apparently summed up how Echo & the Bunnymen fans felt after buying it; the disc sold poorly, and in short order, McCulloch and Sergeant paid a visit to their old buddy, Les Pattinson. One brief chat later, and – voila! – the Bunnymen were resurrected once more

Saturday, 9 May 2015

James Seven Reissue



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Titled as a direct result of the band increasing to a 7 piece, Tim Booth and cohorts released their fullest sounding, grandest produced and most satisfying release. Their stock as a live band had never been questioned, but their album releases up until “Seven” had been patchy, and it seems that the response would be to fill out the traditional jangly pop elements with a harder arena style rock sound. Many comparisons at the time associated the sound with classic Arena Rock similar to Simple Minds, which is an unfair comparison because although there is a surging crowd pleasing grandeur, singer Tim Booth maintains a level of resolute intimacy, expounding his lyrical obsessions of war, religion, and sex. The war theme seems a direct result of the Gulf conflict of the previous year and both “Bring A Gun” and “Mother” where Booth opens with the lines “These wars are motherfuckers, how many sons will we kill today?”Partly produced by Youth, Steve Chase and the band, the first half of “Seven” is James at their blistering best. The addition of Trumpet playing Andy Diagram adds to the plunging pop surge of the opener “Born Of Frustration”, and Booth yells out insecurities with abandon, employing lines like “I don’t need a shrink, but an Exorcist”. The dramatic “Ring The Bells” passionately displays Booths inner atheist beliefs as he repeats the line “I no longer feel God watching over me” and the rhythm and performance of the song seems to add a weird exaltation to his discovery. “Sound”, “Bring A Gun” and “Mother” continue the momentum perfectly, and although the quality isn’t maintained throughout, the final cut and title track “Seven” is the most gloriously produced and possibly best song of the bands career. A wonderful string arrangement is supported by Diagram’s lonely distant Trumpet and guitarist Larry Gott’s tender embellishment, all set to Booths questioning of the many facets of Love as he bares himself with the line “Darling, I’m open, Unguarded, Unbroken”. “Seven” is a more than worthy addition; it’s a creative compilation of a band developing their ideas with a complete and wholesome passion.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Elvis Costello Spike Remastered


Elvis Costello Spike Remastered 

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Pay the price of attention and enter Elvis Costello's Magic Theater, a dazzling display of musical and political styles united by a simultaneously bitter and compassionate point of view. At first, _Spike_ seems schizophrenic. But the key is its diversity, which spans the rich pop of "Veronica" (a collaboration with Paul McCartney and, with odd resonance, kind of an update of "Eleanor Rigby"); the cosmic rockabilly of "Pads, Paws, and Claws" (the other McCartney collaboration); the bluesy "God's Comic"; and the teary, naked "Baby Plays Around." There's a pastoral feeling to several tunes, especially the more overtly political ones, such as "Tramp the Dirt Down" (a sad, angry blast at Margaret Thatcher's Britain) and the almost unbearably wistful "Last Boat Leaving," which gives _Spike_ a nostalgic, despairing note. For the most part, Costello shelves the dazzling wordplay that marked some of his best albums (especially _This Year's Model_ and _Armed Forces_) in favor of straightforward storytelling. "Chewing Gum," one of several cuts about dashed expectations and deceit, is a jagged, obscure jump song. The nervy, CD-only "Coal-Train Robberies" features a Third World news flash of constantly shifting viewpoint. It's sandwiched between the lovely Irish-uprising memoir "Any King's Shilling" and "Last Boat Leaving"--songs of similar tempo and attitude--and gives this organic-sounding CD more vitality than the vinyl version. The songs build upon one another, each one giving the preceding depth and drama. "This Town" launches a bitter attack at entrepreneurs. Its dominant images are those of the piano man as leper, of the Babbitt whose poverty is his stigma, of the "Fish-Finger King" who lives on "Self-Made Man Row." "This Town" packs the punch of "Pump It Up," but it's wise without being wisecracking. For the rich, funky "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," Costello and his wife, former Pogue Cait O'Riordan, traveled to New Orleans to enlist the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and legendary pianist Allen Toussiant. The latter applies precise, churchy filigree to this devotional love song about the consequences of deceit. The production is reverential without being musty, and Toussaint's piano sounds positively fruity. The pivotal points, however, are "Miss Macbeth," an acid portrayal of an old, witchy woman; the dreamy, ambiguous "Satellite"; and the forked "Stalin Malone." "Miss Macbeth" evokes _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_ in its psychedelic vaudeville and its evocation of childhood haunts and imagery, while "Satellite" again discloses Costello's fascination with imagery and electronics. (Note how "Miss Macbeth" vamps on Costello's real name, Declan MacManus). "Stalin Malone" is an instrumental on the disc, but Costello has provided lyrics on the insert. Packed with horns and percussion, it's swinging and jovial, and might have been written by Hollywood chartmaster Shorty Rogers in the late '50s. The phantasmagoric lyrics suggest an all-knowing Big Brother whose time is about to come. _Spike_ is a unified work about exploration, about looking at a world grown disturbing and alienating. Costello has reclaimed his eminence as rock's best reporter, one of the premier documentarians of a universe that goads, saddens, and amuses him.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pulp This Is Hardcore Deluxe Edition



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There’s a telling moment that comes near the end of This is Hardcore’s lead single “Help the Aged”. After building the bridge towards a climax, the song approaches the moment Jarvis Cocker is clearly supposed to hit the songs big note and send the whole song rocketing into the last chorus. Instead he chops the word to bits, “Your se-se-se-se-se-se-se-sellooooh!” he cries, and single handedly destroys the song’s momentum and sends it limping into the final chorus. The moment is emblematic of This is Hardcore, which is not commercial suicide but commercial sabotage. Cocker spends the duration of the album limiting his commercial appeal as much as possible in order to regress from the epic success of Different Class back to a cult following. “You’re gunna like it, but not a lot,” Cocker sings to his pop audience on opener “The Fear”. While This is Hardcore is far more challenging than its predecessor it’s just as rewarding, a harrowing look at what happens when the cameras cut off and the stars go home alone. Jarvis Cocker spent Christmas 1996 alone at the Paramount Hotel in New York. Cocaine had ripped through the Britpop scene and Cocker wasn’t exempt as rumors began to fly about his supposed heroin usage. By this point, Pulp wasn’t the same band they were a few years ago. Russell Senior left upon Cocker’s return from New York, explaining “it wasn’t creatively rewarding to be in Pulp anymore.” When This is Hardcore was released in March 1998 it was heralded as commercial suicide and sold a small fraction what its predecessor did with only one of its singles making the top 10. Listening to it now, this sounds intentional. This is Hardcore obscures it’s pop thrills, but they are there, they just aren’t half as obvious as they were on Different Class. Perhaps the most difficult thing about This is Hardcore is it’s deeply sad, not the kind of sadness that comes with a few missteps, but a lifetime of them. On the brutally sad album highlight “A Little Soul” Cocker sings from the role of a failed father begging his son not to turn out like he did. “I've got no wisdom that I want to pass on/Just don't hang round here, no, I'm telling you son/You don't want to know me.” Perversely enough, its also one of the albums catchiest songs. “TV Movie” begins with Cocker comparing his new bachlor life with to “a movie made for TV/bad dialogue, bad acting, no interest” and climaxes with Cocker hitting his own version of rock bottom, “I know it must be bad 'cos sitting here right now/all I know is I can't even think/I can't even think of anything clever to say.” Nobody sounds more aware of Britpop’s dissolution than Jarvis Cocker. Closer “The Day After the Revolution” seems to be explicitly about the end of the whole circus. “Perfection is over/the rave is over/Sheffield is over/the fear is over/guilt is over,” he lists before going on to declare that everything is done for, “Men are over/Women are over/Cholesterol is over/Tapers are over/Irony is over/Bye bye.” Commercial suicide maybe but considering that the only two bands to make it out of Britpop with their legacies intact (You should know what the other is by now… okay it’s Blur) both made albums anticipating this it sounds like a canny move of self preservation. It’s not that Jarvis Cocker couldn’t have made another rip roaring pop record, he didn’t want to. Consider “Sylvia”, it contains the album’s only true go for broke chorus, everything building to a triumphant(ish) shout of “I can't help you but I know things are gonna get better!” This would have fit well on the singles charts but it wasn’t released as a single at all. Cocker’s willful receding from the spotlight is even more evident when looking at the singles that were released, songs about the inevitability of death, a fathers shame, the exaustion of the party life, and hardcore pornography. Man, I thought Different Class was well produced. This is Hardcore is such a willful rejection of Britpop that even the mixing is a direct response to Britpop’s paper thin treble squall, and it sounds amazing. Every instrument on This is Hardcore has been given a massive amount of space and the bass is a beast of its own. Nowhere is the sound of This is Hardcore more evident than on its bewildering title track. The immediately jarring percussion speaks volumes, the horns even more so; by the time the piano comes in I’ve been transported far away from here to a place of pure delightful evil. Meanwhile, Cocker’s pitch perfect vocal performance seems hell-bent on communicating one thing, sex with Jarvis Cocker is terrifying. “It seems I saw you in some teenage wet dream/I like your get up if you know what I mean,” he leers, “Oh this is Hardcore/this is me on top of you/And I can't believe that it took me this long.” Naturally, it was the album’s second single. But while many would consider its peak position of 12 as a disappointment, I see a song with no chorus about passionless sex breaking the top 20. Sounds like a triumph to me. But it’s a lyric from “Help the Aged” that perfectly encapsulates the state of British music in 1998. As Britpop began producing diminishing returns, it’s minor acts like Kula Shakur and Menswear rapidly sliding down the charts, and the nation’s music industry continuing to cling to the idea that all was well, nothing sounded quite as ominously true as “In the meantime we try, try to forget that nothing lasts forever.”
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