Saturday, 27 February 2016

Various ‎The Stiff Records Box Set

 Various The Stiff Records Box Set CD1/CD2/CD3/CD4

Get It At Discogs
Any box set that starts with Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City" is going to be pretty good, but any box set that gets from that song to Elvis Costello's "Less Than Zero" in 10 tracks via the Damned, Motörhead, and Plummet Airlines' rock epic "Silver Shirt" is going to be great. By that same logic, any box set that peppers those mind-blowers with pub-rock like Roogalator's "All Aboard" and Lew Lewis & His Band's "Boogie on the Street" is going to be a rollercoaster, to put it nicely. The Stiff Records Box Set managed this feat back in 1992, compiling nearly 100 hits and misses on four discs. The Big Stiff Box Set, which deviates enough from that setlist to complement its out-of-print predecessor instead of replace it, is likewise a great rollercoaster: A formidable label retrospective that includes more than its share of incredible tracks mixed with more than a few that haven't aged well or just weren't very good to begin with. Of course, every label, however venerable, has its high points and low, but to its credit, the UK-released The Big Stiff Box Set-- which follows a wave of reissues from the resurrected label-- favors historical inclusivity over consistency and is all the better for it. According to this set, there's no such thing as a Stiff Sound-- the imprint has billed itself as the "world's most flexible label." Founded in 1976, Stiff primarily worked 7" singles by career artists, newcomers, and one-offs, paying special attention to packaging and sending artists out on traveling revues around the UK. Stiff signed artists who would go on to great things and others who would go on to nothing. How's this for impressive? First singles by Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, the Damned, Wreckless Eric, Kirsty MacColl, and the Pogues. What about introducing Britain to Americans like Devo, the Go-Go's, the Plasmatics, and Richard Hell (unfortunately omitted from this set)? But Stiff's flexibility extended beyond its creative business practices and savvy signings to its music, and despite its rugged independent stance, the label essentially followed larger British trends, tracing pub rock into punk, then ska and new wave, with depot stops at gospel, rockabilly, and soul. It's all pop in the end, which makes The Big Stiff Box Set a grab-bag experience. On one hand, it sounds scattered in places, especially on the first disc, as if the commonality of distribution isn't enough to connect these songs. On the other, such variety can be bracing and even exciting, especially on the second disc, which begins with punk (the Members' "Solitary Confinement"), touches on bubblegum (Rachel Sweet's cover of Carla Thomas' "B.A.B.Y."), detours into ska (Madness's "One Step Beyond"), catches a flight to L.A. (the Go-Go's' "We Got the Beat"), and ends up in Jamaica (Desmond Dekker's "Please Don't Bend"). That's not even mentioning Wreckless Eric's catchy "Take the Cash (K.A.S.H.)", Lene Lovich's wonderful staccato delivery on "Lucky Number", Jona Lewie's delectably bitter "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties". Big and Stiff, eh? Well, the label always had an ear for humor. In 1980, Stiff released an LP titled The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, which sold surprisingly well despite being blank on both sides. Stiff trafficked in talky novelties like Max Wall's "England's Glory", with its yakety sax and rambling lyrics, and Mick Farren & the Deviants' "Let's Loot the Supermarket Again Like We Did Last Summer", with its healthy satiric self-awareness. These songs, mostly forgotten but compiled here for posterity, might have stemmed from outrage, but now sound quaint and innocuous-- not rarities so much as oddities. Except, that is, for Ian Dury, whose songs "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "Sweet Gene Vincent" put this sound toward more serious ends. History's been kinder to Dury than Wall and Farren, obviously. In addition to comparing one band to Huey Lewis & the News with no detectable irony, the Big Stiff liner notes manage to speak to novices who just discovered My Aim Is True as well as to veterans who know the label's catalogue by heart, offering extensive introductions to artists as well as obscure trivia. The Big Stiff Box Set is both an introduction to the label as well as an elaboration. In addressing both camps, it does what every good box set should do: Making few distinctions between the legends and the obscurities, these four discs recontextualize what you already know via stuff you don't.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Avalanches ‎Since I Left You

The Avalanches Since I Left You

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Since I Left You falls into a rare category of album -innovative, unique, powerful, and definitive- and as such truly deserves to be called a modern classic. It is a tour de force of creation and impact, the combination if which elevates it to a level of It has been a little over 15 years since Australian outfit The Avalanches released their debut, and to date only, album. Allegedly, album number two is on the way, although they appear to be taking their sweet time. And who could blame them? Since I Left You is not an album that is easy to follow it up. It falls into a rare category of album -innovative, unique, powerful, and definitive- and as such truly deserves to be called a modern classic. It is a tour de force of creation and impact, the combination if which elevates it to a level of utter brilliance. First off is the albums construction. When I recommend it to others, I am usually asked what type of music it is. This is not an easily answered question. Built over the course of almost a year at the tail end of the 90’s, Since I Left You is made entirely from samples taken from an estimated 3500 different records. Consequently, it is incredibly hard to define. Often within an instant, it goes from sounding like a smooth house record (“Electricity”), to 1950’s surrealism (“Frontier Psychiatrist”) to straight up dance music (“Live At Dominoes”). Despite this, the album retains a remarkable level of consistency. Regardless of the style it embodies at any given moment, it never strays too far from the path clearly established by the opening track, thus giving way to its greatest strength. An increasingly prevalent issue in the music of the last ten years is the importance of the album as an entity. The power of the 99 cent download and the single have outweighed the power of the LP for quite some time now, to the point where albums are simply becoming packages for a series of singles. That said Since I Left You is one of the most powerful album statements in recent memory. By never allowing for a second of silence in its 60 minute running time, as well as constructing a full circle storyline, it renders itself incredibly impactful. By the time the sample repeated both at the beginning and end fades out, the sensation of a complete experience is felt. This is a feat in music that is very difficult to achieve, made even more remarkable by the variety present throughout the 18 songs. In the end, through this very variety, it generates a vast amount of emotional resonance. Since I Left You is an album of universal themes. The youthful and warm atmosphere that branches each of the songs together are sensations known to all mankind, which allows for the impact it creates. However, as with nearly all albums, weak points are found throughout. But because of the albums themes and variety of sound, these weak points are entirely subjective. The frenetic breaks of “Flight Tonight” can be a point of exhilaration or irritation depending on the listener, and that is exactly what Since I Left You aims to achieve. It is an album of moments and feelings familiar to each and every listener, and by tying these moments together, ultimately becomes the sum of its parts. At a point, the track listing ceases to become relevant, and through the intertwining sounds, the heart of the album is found. Happiness and youth can never truly die, and can be felt throughout every era. Since I Left You is a cumulative celebration of all these eras, and as such taps into the rhythm of life itself. The album revels in the past, while ultimately points forward, leading to a world of it’s own creation. A world so new, inventive, and full of life, that it may be cherished with every listen as if it has just been discovered. And to experience this rediscovery is to experience something so wonderful and powerful that at times it lacks definition, existing in the very microcosm it gives birth too. This is ultimately turns Since I Left You into what it is: a great and beautiful album. It is an absolute classic, fit to be recommended to anyone.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Killing Joke ‎What's This For...! Reissue

Killing Joke What's This For...!

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Killing Joke’s second album builds on the style of their first. Heavy, tribal drums and gut-wrenching, deep-as-the-ocean, dub bass lines, combined with jagged guitars and the most melodically shouted vocals ever to grace any form of rock. The formula is the same but a higher production budget and / or more experience in the studio has led to a far more polished sound – but when I say polished, I don’t mean polished like a marble statue or a beach-washed pebble, oh no! this is polished like cut-glass; polished like a bayonet! To understand the impact of their first few albums, you really need an insight into the England of the times. Thatcherism was in its first flush. Unemployment was at an all-time high. The rich / poor divide was getting more pronounced by the hour. Add to this the fact that the cold war was still at its height; nuclear destruction a very real prospect to many. Killing Joke reflected the fear, anger and despair of society’s dispossessed better than anyone. The album opens with a bass drum beat. Inviting you to dance? Or to march? You choose. Geordie’s guitar joins the party with one of his sublime riffs; trebly, overdriven, edgy and discordant. To see him play live, nonchalantly strumming as he leans against a speaker stack, cigarette dangling from his mouth, it’s hard to understand how he plays with such cutting precision – such is genius I suppose. Youth’s bass slips in as the drumbeat goes tribal, so low that you feel it in your spine rather than hear it (sub-woofers were made for music like this), and we’re off into another KJ classic. Tension is even better, one of their finest tracks, non-stop pummelling drums, a swooping, fretless bass, chugging guitar and Jaz’s unmistakeable voice, “and the tension builds” – it certainly does. Unspeakable has almost Adam Ant style drumming and funky bass with a distorted guitar washing over everything. Butcher begins with the first noticeable synth on the album – a machine pulse that continues throughout the song. This song also illustrates one of KJ’s trademarks, the vocal free chorus.Follow the Leader is probably the most typical KJ song of the time – it also marked their first entry into the mainstream charts – reaching number 55 as a double A side with Tension. Madness has one of the best, most abrasive Geordie riffs on the album and anti-clown Jaz and drummer Paul Henderson (who provided quite a few backing vocals on the early albums) both shouting “This is Madness” throughout. Once again, an instrumental break replaces any true chorus. Who Told You How is the only piece of filler on the album (and the only reason it doesn’t get a 10) – it would have made an OK B-side to a single but lacks enough direction to work on the album – especially when you compare the tracks that it’s competing with – nice bass from Youth though. The album finishes with Exit, there are elements of the later single Eighties here and some nice offbeat stabs on guitar and bass in the verse. Once again, there is no real chorus, just a drawn out echo of the last line of the verse over an instrumental break.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Killing Joke ‎Fire Dances Remastered

Killing Joke Fire Dances

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After stalling a bit with their 1982 album Revelations, Killing Joke nearly split up, with lead singer Jaz Coleman disappearing to Iceland in order to "survive the apocalypse." By the time Coleman returned to the band, bassist Youth was gone and replaced by Paul Raven, a perfect fit who would stay on board as the band found its way up the charts over the next few releases. As a reaction to all these comings and goings, this is a decidedly tribal album that opens with a track called "The Gathering," follows it with the "join the mob" anthem "Fun & Games," and features words like "we" and "us" throughout the album. The ultimate communal moment, "Let's All Go (To the Fire Dances)," is also the key track, with guitarist Geordie Walker bouncing between crunching barre chords and a Duane Eddy-on-steroids riff while Raven and drummer Paul Ferguson throb like a veteran rhythm section. Even if Coleman's lyrics are filled with venom as always, he's rounding up allies to fight the system here and considering the idea of connecting with his audience rather than just confronting them. Fire Dances bridges Killing Joke's primal past with their more melodic, accessible future and without compromising any of their thunder

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Edwyn Collins & Orange Juice A Casual Introduction 1981/2001

Edwyn Collins And Orange Juice A Casual Introduction 1981/2001

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Even for the relatively few listeners who are familiar with Edwyn Collins' career, there tends to be a rather large gap in their knowledge about the period between Orange Juice's 1982 career high point, Rip It Up, and his 1995 solo smash, "A Girl Like You." (To be fair, there was indeed a five-year break between 1984's The Orange Juice and 1989's solo debut, Hope and Despair.) Although those fans will find the collection instructional and entertaining, A Casual Introduction 1981 to 2001 is geared more toward the newcomer, including all of Collins' best-known solo songs (the sardonic Marvin Gaye homage "The Magic Piper [Of Love]," "Johnny Teardrop") as well as many of the high points of the pioneering Scottish post-punks' career, including their biggest hit, "Rip It Up," in its truncated single form and earlier twee pop landmarks like "Felicity" and "Falling and Laughing" (both in the re-recorded takes from the full-length debut, You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, and not the original single sides, generally considered superior by most fans). Having the album's 18 songs presented in non-chronological order goes a long way toward dispelling the myth that Collins' soul- and R&B-inflected solo work is a massive stylistic shift from his former band; late-era Orange Juice songs like 1984's "What Presence?!" prove that Collins was heading in this direction even before the band split. This is by no means all the Edwyn Collins one would ever need; his highly underrated 1997 solo album, I'm Not Following You, is drastically underrepresented. Furthermore, a full appreciation of Orange Juice requires hearing the scrappy early singles collected on compilations like The Glasgow School. But, just as the title says, this is a worthwhile casual introduction

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Curve ‎Doppelgänger US Album

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Following a series of single and EP releases that had found chart success in the U.K. and indie credibility in the States, the British band Curve released their full-length debut Doppelganger on Dave Stewart's Anxious label. Led by lead singer Toni Halliday and guitarist Dean Garcia, both of whom had toured with Robert Plant, Curve enlisted production help from Flood for this record. Roaming the same sonic landscape as My Bloody Valentine, Doppelganger features the breathy, dreamy vocals of Halliday over top layers of throbbing guitar, dense keyboards, and sledgehammer drumming to create formidable aural textures. At times meandering and unrelenting, tracks like "Already Yours" and "Wish You Dead" are stellar workouts full of rhythm and attitude. The few slower numbers are a nice change of pace with the best results on "Fait Accompli" and the quiet, almost dirge-like "Sandpit," where the less dense instrumentation allows Halliday's vocals to become the focal point. At times menacing and dark and other times more playful, Doppelganger is a bracing listening experience that earned Curve well-deserved attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Primal Scream ‎Dirty Hits

Primal Scream Dirty Hits CD1/CD2

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Possibly the greatest rock ‘n’roll outfit to walk the Earth, Primal Scream have doneit all. They went there, they did it, they bought (and no doubt spent several months in it too) theT-shirt. A group made up of magnificent parts, withorigins in the finest indie known to man such as The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Stone Roses, Felt and My Bloody Valentine. They are the dirty disco half dozen, the boogie outlaws, the drug-munching cosmic pop voyagers, rounded up like the last gang in town. Truly, there is no finer band. Essentially the vision of oneman, Bobby Gillespie, here was an individualreligiously enthralled to the power and joy of music.Very often seen with a large sportsbag of tunes, ithas been Gillespie’s total belief in the power ofmusic. Alarmingly, Dirty Hits is the first ever Primal Scream compilation. With 18 tracks taken from Screamadelica onwards, it’s not the full story. An exhaustive box set, though, would be bloody essentiallistening. Sadly there’s nary a sign of the first two albums or even the C86 in excelsis of Velocity Girl instead this collection kicks off where it all started to get interesting. Hearing Loaded now, it seemslike it has always been there. Barely a yoof-relatedproduct has gone un-soundtracked by it. It’s a birrovaanthem, built around an Andrew Weatherall remix of atrack from 1989’s eponymous second album. The era was Madchester, when every indie Herbert imaginables wapped his cardigan for a dance element and had their brief spell in the low 30s of the charts. It gave the Screamtheir first proper hit and the most mental Top Of The Pops moment ever, with Bobby failing miserably toremember the only eight words he sings on it. Torealise how amazing Screamadelica was in 1991, andstill is now, look no further than Higher Than The Sun – a thing of great beauty – and the mobile phone-tastic Movin’ On Up. When the Scream came back in 1994 with Give Out But Don’t Give Up, and their partyrockin’, er, Rocks, they found themselves usurped by label mates Oasis. Suddenly the Scream looked like old, and very bad news with rumours of heavydrugs and the general unpleasantness of touring with Depeche Mode. Thankfully, they got their shit together and in 1997 released the near perfect Vanishing Point. Quietly, in tunes such as Kowalski and Burning Wheel, the Scream were regaining their magnificence. By 2000, and it was full-on next level. Xtrmntr is this century’s finest album – a blistering, blinding shaft of punk anger, funk chaosand wobbly sloganeering. The four tracks from it here – Accelerator, Kill All Hippies, Swastika Eyes and the sublime Shoot Speed Kill Light – are the best things any other band has ever done ever. Fact. The sonic terrorism continued onto Evil Heat, yet not quite as convincingly.Miss Lucifer is a fine Teutonic klash-up, and Deep Hit Of The Morning Sun Dirty Hits ends with a remix of the Kate Moss-assisted, Lee Hazelwood cover, Some Velvet Morning, and the pleasant Autobahn 66. Dirty Hits, then. If you want a high class taster of what Primal Scream are about,then you’re in the right place. If you’re then compelled to buy the rest of their canon, then all the better. For those about to shake, boogie, kraut out,starjump badly and yes even rock, then the Screamsalutes you. Fantastic. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Inspiral Carpets ‎Cool As

Inspiral Carpets Cool As

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After Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets were the most popular band to emerge from the early-'90s baggy/Madchester scene. Taking their musical cue from late-'60s Farfisa organ-fuelled psychedelic rock, the Carpets sounded drastically different from the bands who they were unfairly lumped together with. Regardless, they released some of the best singles of the '90s, and a batch of albums that are all worthwhile. This three-disc compilation, released in 2003 to coincide with a reunion tour, features a CD of singles ("Cool As"), a CD of rarities ("Rare As"), and a DVD of promo clips, interviews, and live performances ("Spool As"). Disc one is more complete than the Carpets' Singles collection released in 1995, containing two very early singles with their original vocalist, Steve Holt, plus a new "lost" single, "Come Back Tomorrow." Although not groundbreaking, the Carpets were perhaps the best U.K. singles band since Madness a decade earlier. "Move," "Please Be Cruel," "This Is How It Feels," "Dragging Me Down," and "Two Worlds Collide" are a handful of highlights from a career of them. If this was the only disc, it would be worthy of your dollars, but luckily, there's more. "Rare As" contains even more early rarities from the Holt lineup plus unreleased tracks, B-sides, and remixes. Of these tracks, one of the most enjoyable is their Inspiraling version of "Tainted Love," which sounds like a Carpets original rather than a cover (of a cover?)
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