Saturday, 31 October 2015

Frank Black Frank Black

Frank Black Frank Black

Get It At Discogs
Underneath their noise and weirdness, the Pixies had a thorough knowledge of rock history, spanning '50s and '60s' surf-rock, '70s punk's menacing energy and '80s college rock's quirkiness. After dismantling the band, Black Francis inverted his name, collaborated with Captain Beefheart / Pere Ubu sideman Eric Drew Feldman and let his inner rock historian loose on Frank Black. Much of the album nods to Black's inspirations, but his own gifts still shine through. The chugging Iggy Pop homage "Ten Percenter" borrows the Stooges' primitive grind, while the arty, dissonant UFO convention tale "Parry the Wind High, Low" recalls Bowie's Berlin era. However, "I Heard Ramona Sing" -- a Ramones tribute -- is an airy, jangly pop number that sounds nothing like its subject; the Beach Boys' "Hang On To Your Ego" gets a new wave makeover with crunchy guitars and shiny keyboards. Despite his efforts to escape the Pixies' sound, many of Frank Black's songs would have fit on Trompe Le Monde. "Los Angeles" builds on that album's spacy, metallic feel; with its thrashy choruses and dreamy coda, it almost caricatures the Pixies' extreme dynamics. However, whimsical vignettes like "Brackish Boy" and "Two Spaces" sound more like They Might Be Giants -- one of Black's favorite groups -- than his old band, while softer songs like "Adda Lee" and "Every Time I Go Around Here" reveal more emotional depth. Frank Black also boasts an unabashedly big, polished sound; keyboards and brass embellish "Places Named After Numbers" and the epic surf-rock instrumental "Tossed." Just a few years later, new wave-inspired punk-pop bands like Weezer, the Rentals and even No Doubt ruled alternative rock, proving that even if his solo career wasn't as influential as his Pixies years, Frank Black was still ahead of his time.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Grandaddy ‎The Sophtware Slump Deluxe Edition

Get It At Discogs
The Sophtware Slump is one of the best albums of the 00s. Released in the first May of the decade, it was up against strong competition commercially (Sonic Youth, Eminem, Pearl Jam) – making its peak of 36 on the UK albums chart impressive indeed. But despite substantial critical praise, the group never broke the mainstream in the manner of similarly concept-heavy alt-rockers like The Flaming Lips and Radiohead. Grandaddy broke up in 2006, their final album Just Like the Fambly Cat an epitaph for a band whose work was singularly styled and frequently stunning. This is their finest studio set, but far from their most accessible collection. It’s a strange meeting of worlds, buzzing technology butting heads with bucolic retreat, backwoods mentality confounded by modernity. Frontman Jason Lytle produces, as he had on 1997’s debut disc Under the Western Freeway. But while Grandaddy’s first full-length was a bright and bizarre collection of oddball pop and hum-along indie (A.M. 180 is its best-known cut), these 46 minutes are rather more muted, introspective musings on expired alcoholic robots – Jed the Humanoid, and its fuzzy companion Jed’s Other Poem (with the great line, "I try to sing it funny like Beck, but it’s bringing me down") – standing in for eccentric essays on alien landscapes. It’s not without moments of instant-fix delight – The Crystal Lake is a perfect five minutes of songwriting gold – but this can be a heavy-going album for newcomers. But like so many great, so-called must-have long-players, repeat plays reward the listener with treats aplenty. Underneath the Weeping Willow is a tear-jerker to treasure, a sigh of a lyric desperate for retirement from the racket of the real world tugging on the ducts with a velveteen touch, its spare piano backdrop effortlessly beautiful. Hewlett’s Daughter is a calm, contemplative piece that briefly contorts into a clangourous rocker around the two-minute mark; and Broken Household Appliance National Forest is the greatest song ever written about abandoned fridge-freezers. But it’s the closer, So You’ll Aim Towards the Sky, that leaves the most lasting mark – and the biggest lump in the throat. If you don’t feel the slightest bit moved by the time a voice offers a simple "good luck", check your pulse. At the time of its original release, a handful of critics claimed that The Sophtware Slump was better than OK Computer. At points, one can hear where they were coming from. It’s certainly an essential of its era that has weathered the years well. The disc of extras included with this deluxe edition is, inevitably, something of a mixed bag. Fans will be pleased to get their ears around material from the band’s 2001 EP, Through a Frosty Plate Glass, as well as rough-edged album demos and B sides; but why is there nothing from the Signal to Snow Ratio four-tracker of 1999? Packaged with the original album in 2000 for a few quid more, it points the way to The Sophtware Slump’s masterful melancholy. A no-brainer for inclusion on paper, somehow it’s missing. Baffling, for sure, but it takes nothing away from the album-proper’s enduring excellence.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Waterboys The Secret Life Of The Waterboys 81-85

Get It At Discogs
The Secret Life of The Waterboys is a collection of previously unreleased studio recordings, radio sessions, live tracks and lost "B-sides" from the years 1981-1985. A 1985 BBC radio version of "Medicine Bow" opens proceedings with an extra verse and extended instrumental section to differentiate it from the familiar This is the Sea album recording. "That Was the River" is a wildly different, fast version of that album's title track, with Television's Tom Verlaine (no less) supplying some typically inventive, jagged lead guitar. "A Pagan Place" is a remix of the original master tape and consequently doesn't provide any real surprises. "Billy Sparks" is described by Scott as a raggle-taggle folk rock romp from the Pagan Place sessions presaging the Fisherman's Blues sound by about five years. While there's some validity in that claim (he wrote it after all, so should know what he's talking about!), the song is a slighter thing than any of the tracks on Fisherman's Blues. Rhythmically it's got more in common with the early '80s Ska revival than Irish or British folk music, and the tune is in the same vein as Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine." It's equally toe-tapping however, and is the kind of thing that you find yourself humming round the house in spite of yourself. "Savage Earth Heart" has, as Scott notes, been played in hundreds of different versions. This one was recorded on The Waterboys ' first U.S. tour (in 1984) and features some stupendous drumming from Chris Whitten. The following version of "Don't Bang the Drum" is definitely something special. Here's the booklet notes: "This rearrangement was recorded live in one take for a radio session at the BBC's Golders Green studio, a converted and very atmospheric old theatre. Roddy Lorimer (trumpet) and Anthony Thistlethwaite (saxophone) played in two theatre boxes, high above Mike Scott (piano, vocals) and Steve Wickham (violin.) The lights were turned way down low and this is what happened." It's every bit as magical as you might hope. "The Ways of Men" is a fine big music Waterboys song, written too late for A Pagan Place and just too early for This Is the Sea. Thistlethwaite blows up the proverbial storm through this one. "Rags" (Second Amendment) is an earlier version with a different, bleaker lyric. "The Earth Only Endures" is a traditional Sioux lyric set to music and sung by Scott, to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar and a thunderstorm. "Somebody Might Wave Back" is the original, solo demo of the song, recorded by Scott with his acoustic guitar in 1982. Interestingly (for me) this was the first Waterboys song that I heard performed by a busker (who I remember only as Peter). He'd learnt the song from the full band, album version, but unknowingly nailed the song's original form right on the head! "Going to Paris" is the oldest song on this collection, and it shows. Its interest lies mainly in being an example of the writer's early efforts, in the same way as some of The Beatles Anthology 1. "The Three Day Man" is a storming rocker from another BBC session featuring guest drummer Preston Hayman, who was working with Kate Bush at the time. "Bury My Heart" was written in an all night burst after reading Dee Brown's book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in late 1981. Having completed the song, Scott recorded the whole thing himself (vocals, guitars, piano, and drums), then inexplicably didn't include it on the first Waterboys album. "Out of Control" is an absolute treasure. The track is credited to Another Pretty Face, Scott's main band before using the name The Waterboys . This recording was played on a BBC radio show by John Peel (legendary and much-loved champion of obscure music and undiscovered talent). Nigel Grainge (of Ensign records) heard this on his car radio and vowed to sign the unknown musicians responsible. Three months later he did. The closing song, "Love That Kills," was recorded in 1983 under the influence of the writings of W.B. Yeats and Dion Fortune. The vocal performance finds Scott occasionally over-reaching himself (this was recorded during a mammoth session), but is nonetheless a lost Waterboys classic, and provides an insight into just where Scott's muse was already leading him.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Jesus & Mary Chain ‎The Power Of Negative Thinking B-Sides & Rarities

Get It At Discogs
The Jesus and Mary Chain's 2008 Rhino four-disc box set The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities, collects all of the influential Scottish noise-pop band's various B-side singles, cover songs, and sundry demos in one terrific package. Fans of JAMC who already own the band's albums should be pleased to see that none of the original album tracks are included here. For those who don't own them, Rhino's 2006 bonus disc reissues of Psychocandy, Darklands, Automatic, Honey's Dead, and Stoned & Dethroned is the place to start. However, in many ways The Power of Negative Thinking is a more honest portrait of JAMC than even the studio albums reveal. Often mischaracterized as gloomy, goth rock misanthropes -- only partly true -- JAMC were in truth huge fans of '60s sunshine pop, surf rock, and even hip-hop and aspired to a kind of D.I.Y. Phil Spector Wall of Sound aesthetic that found them substituting Spector's strings and horns with walls of feedbacking guitar. These are rough demos meant to capture the Reid brothers' raw creative vision of rock music that -- as guitarist Jim Reid says in the liner notes -- had, "the pop sensibilities of the Shangri-Las, but with the production values of the Birthday Party." In that sense, we get JAMC from their dreamy lo-fi punk roots with the 1983 drum machine-driven demo for "Up Too High" and 1984's sludgy feedback-laden "Upside Down," to their time as '90s alt rock icons on such pristinely polished efforts like shimmering 1992 ballad "Why Do You Want Me?" and the catchy folk-rock of 1994's "Something I Can't Have." We even get one of the few non-Reid entries in bassist Ben Lurie's pop nugget "Rocket." Also enlightening are such giddy cover songs as JAMC's version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," Prince's "Alphabet Street," and the Temptations' "My Girl" which purportedly JAMC were so drunk during the recording of they could barely hold their instruments. It's also true that the Reid brothers were big fans of Bob Dylan and that many of these songs were written on acoustic guitar. Not surprisingly, here we get blissfully melodic acoustic versions of "Just Like Honey" and "Taste of Cindy," which actually come fairly close to fulfilling JAMC's Spector-ish aspirations. Ultimately, The Power of Negative Thinking isn't the whole JAMC story, but it's the whole story behind the scenes and A-side singles, and sometimes the B-sides. Even better.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Cure ‎Join The Dots (B-Sides & Rarities 1978>2001 The Fiction Years)

Get It At Discogs
Wisely, the Cure decided to start fresh upon signing with their new label in 2004 by cleaning house, remastering the old albums, and bringing their fans Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001. Not only is it the ultimate companion to the official releases, but it is, in a way, the new-super-deluxe-updated version of that cassette release of Staring at the Sea. Every B-side is included, in order, with cleaned-up sound, liner notes, and explanations by the man who made it all happen. All tracks, from "10.15 Saturday Night" (the B-side to the debut single "Killing an Arab") to covers of "Hello, I Love You," "Purple Haze," and "World in My Eyes," to entries from the Bloodflowers singles, are an indication that while the Cure made both strong albums and singles, they were not afraid to experiment along the way, and more importantly, they didn't let pride keep them from not making them available to those who were willing to look for them. Their growth as a band can be fully tracked in the songs here. The wild development on disc one (which includes the B-sides from the Staring at the Sea cassette, the B-sides from the Boys Don't Cry re-release from 1986, and the Japanese Whispers B-sides, as well as the extremely rare "Lament" [flexi-disc version]) is easily their strongest and most diverse era, with Smith growing artistically and musically in leaps and bounds from track to track. The rampant growth eventually gives way to the dark and heavy pop of the B-sides of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration, and Mixed Up on disc two. While the songs are strong on this second disc, they manage to have less of the wild, experimental abandon that disc one has. the Cure began to find a real niche by this point, and by disc three, the dream pop of the late '80s had developed into the stadium-sized gloom and doom that characterized 1992's Wish, their critical and commercial peak. Eventually the band's output would become more sporadic, and the level of consistency would be more of a trademark of the band than the experimentalism of old. Disc four, which covers the time from Wild Mood Swings to Bloodflowers, is the "weakest" of the collection, but there are still great moments to be found, with many remixes that give the original tracks a new interpretation. There are those who would argue that the band grew, and others would argue that it fell apart, yet there is no denying that the majority of work on Join the Dots is extraordinarily strong. It admittedly may be a bit too much for someone who isn't quite a big devotee of the band, but it's a veritable godsend for those who've been waiting for this for years. No jumbled, out-of-order track listings, no glaring omissions (it's safe to say that the reissues of the albums will take care of any extra tracks, mixes, and miscellanea lying around) -- it's exactly what a rarities/B-sides collection should be. Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001 is proof that, while the band may falter from time to time -- as most do -- the Cure have, unlike most, really been paying attention to their fans' needs over the years.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Oasis The Masterplan

Get It At Discogs
The UK is most definitely one of the greatest countries in terms of music. So much classic bands that helped to build up the genres that we know these days, that even if you don't like some of the bands from there, at least you should be grateful for the impact they have in everything you listen. One of the most well-known bands from there is Oasis, a pop rock band that was one of the pillars from the Britpop movement, which was massive in their country and has a monstrous legacy. The frontman duo, Noel and Liam Gallagher, are some of the most arrogant people in music, but these guys definitely know how to make a tune. After the massive success of their first albums, "Definitely Maybe" and "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?", which had some of the most famous UK's stadium anthems, the third album "Be Here Now" was considered a failure by many(even if I don't think so) because of its length, overproduction and nonsensical, cocaine-fueled lyrics. So, after Oasis found themselves trapped in a hole, they decided to put their b-sides together and released their first compilation, "The Masterplan", which turned to be one of the best Oasis albums. It starts with "Acquiesce", a full-mode rocker that bounds between Liam's verses and Noel's chorus that works so beautifully that is hard not to ask yourself how they didn't used this vocal duo attack more often. Other rockers like "Fade Away", "Headshrinker" and "Stay Young" are the usual anthemic stuff that Oasis mastered so wonderfully in their early career, with memorable lyrics and noisey, gigantic guitars that create a sense of confidence that is exciting to see in a band that is so young, but at the same time is so strong and magic that it sounds like a experienced band. But while the rockers are awesome, everybody knows that Oasis's best songs are the ballads, and here they're the best that you could imagine. The emotional vocals of Liam in "Listen Up" and "Rockin' Chair" are a pleasant surprise that shows his best vocals in the band's history, and how he is a great vocalist sometimes. But, the best ballads are the Noel ones. "Half The World Away" and "Talk Tonight" are acoustic numbers that shows how simple and rewarding Noel's songwriting can be, with sweet choruses and catchy lyrics. But, the album's masterpiece is the title track, that is close to be the band's best song. Its soothing first verse, beautiful violins and piano, powerful chorus and masterfully composed lyrics shows why Oasis is such a big deal. Their influences are obvious here, with Beatles-esque songs like "Underneath The Sky", and a cover of "I Am The Walrus" that is a little unnecessary, but it is a good one anyway. The Smiths-esque "Going Nowhere" is pretty good, but it really doesn't go nowhere, feeling a little weak compared with the rest of the album. The instrumental "The Swamp Song" is forgettable, and it prejudice the flow of the album too. But the overall instrumentation of the album is beautiful, with great solos, buzzy guitars and a great use of multiple instruments that gives the characteristic Oasis sound to the songs. Oasis's passionate, anthemic and confident sound comes into full circle on "The Masterplan", focusing on their grandiose energy that makes simple songs become so uplifting and exciting that in a few listens you will sing along to the entire album. Its rock dynamics together with pop tendencies blend together so well that almost everyone can enjoy it, liking rock music or not. It is a document of a band that was once in the top of the world. Oh, and did I mentioned that it's only a b-side compilation? Yeah, that's hard to believe.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Saint Etienne ‎So Tough Deluxe Edition

Get It At Discogs
Although upon its release Saint Etienne’s second album So Tough marked the band’s chart high point, time has seen it fade from a cultural memory that has the mid-90s pegged as The Britpop Years. This is curious, for the 1993 record was created from a very similar palette to that employed by Britpop’s songwriters – an updated 1960s soundtrack to narratives of everyday London life – but to far superior results. Saint Etienne’s observations were keener, their aesthetic more refined and the very songs smarter than what was to come a year or so later. In part, this is because while Saint Etienne loved to find beauty in the mundane (“Bruce on the old Generation Game” and squeezy ketchup bottles in Kentish Town cafes) unlike the majority of their contemporaries they weren’t afraid to explore sounds from beyond the English coast, be it French pop, hip hop or global electronica. It’s perhaps because of this diversity of influence that So Tough still sounds skittish and fresh today. Leafhound echoes the piano sounds that characterised early 90s dance records, and Conichita Martinez has a European disco feel heightened by the repeated vocal and scrambled guitar lines that appear as if you’d suddenly stumbled across them on a short wave radio. You’re in a Bad Way still stands up as a bona-fide pop classic, while on the equally elegant Avenue, sumptuous “oooohs” suddenly disappear into a stately harpsichord interlude without creating a pretentious non-sequitur. It represents an ambition sadly seen from too few groups since. Calico, meanwhile, anticipates trip hop, and Junk the Morgue is a curious transatlantic cousin of Madonna’s Erotica. While Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ ability to combine the influences gleaned from their prodigious record collections made Saint Etienne ripe for a cerebral dancefloor, it was Sarah Cracknell’s versatile singing (breathy one moment, soulful the next) that was key to creating an overarching (but never overly arch) identity out of these disparate moods. It’s certainly more effective than Saint Etienne’s stylistic device of connecting each track with clips of dialogue from obscure British film or snatches of conversation, which feels hackneyed and dated, disrupting the album’s flow. Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble, and by rights So Tough’s reissue reasserts a forgotten treasure as one of the finest British albums of the 90s.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Teenage Fanclub ‎Grand Prix Australia Album

Teenage Fanclub Grand Prix

Get It At Discogs
For all of the brilliance of records like Bandwagonesque and the underrated Thirteen, at times Teenage Fanclub seemed little more than a showcase for the laconic melodic genius of Norman Blake -- fairly or not, the songwriting contributions of bandmates Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley suffered mightily by comparison, mere filler when stacked alongside Blake-penned marvels like "The Concept" and "Norman 3." That said, the superb Grand Prix is perhaps the truest group effort in the Fannies' catalog -- more than ever before, their democratic approach truly bears fruit, and it's indicative of the disc's uniform excellence that the first Blake composition, the lovely "Mellow Doubt," doesn't even surface until track three, by which time McGinley's "About You" and Love's harmony-rich "Sparky's Dream" have already firmly established the set's ragged-but-right tenor. While new drummer Paul Quinn fails to recreate the buoyantly reckless abandon of the sacked Brendan O'Hare, Grand Prix otherwise captures complete creative synergy -- in particular, "Don't Look Back" is Love's watershed moment, a gorgeously wistful love song highlighted by wittily lovelorn lyrics like "I'd steal a car to drive you home," as good a pick-up line as anything in the annals of rock & roll. Not everything works (McGinley's "Verisimilitude" goes nowhere fast) and Blake's contributions are still the highlights ("Neil Jung" and "I'll Make It Clear" are simply perfect pop songs), but Grand Prix is ultimately the product of a band at the peak of its collective powers, not as much a landmark as Bandwagonesque but every bit as good on its own terms.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Chapterhouse Blood Music US Album

Chapterhouse Blood Music

Get It At Discogs
This album brings a smile to my face everytime I listen to it. It is a great combination of shoegazer, pop, and emerging 90's electronica. While their first album Whirlpool is a better straight-up shoegazer affair (with better singles), Blood Music offers up such a joyous combination of styles that I personally like it better. Something about the carefree attitude of the band in cherry-picking elements from several genres is really refreshing. On Blood Music Chapterhouse are truly inspired in their attempt to carve out a sound of their own; something at the crossroads of genres that hadn't been really heard before. Many shoegazer bands eventually evolved into electronica later in life ending up radically different from their original sound. Chapterhouse on the other hand incorporated electronica into their lush guitar thing rather than opt for it over the shoegazer elements that made them (semi)-famous. The product is this excellent album. Differing bonus discs appeared on U.K. and U.S. versions -- the former consisted of a full remix of the album by techno duo Global Communication, while the latter included a couple of remixes from other acts, a sweet little number called "Frost," and the awesome "Picnic," a 15-minute ambient/rock piece that arguably was their best-ever number.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...