Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Breeders ‎LSXX Reissue


The Breeders LSXX Reissue CD1/CD2/CD3

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This is a three disc, 60-track set: the original album on disc one, a collection of EP tracks and demos on disc two, and a live (in Stockholm) set plus an early BBC session on disc three. It works brilliantly as a fairly comprehensive overview of the band’s music from that early Nineties peak period. Some of the stuff on the disc of EP tracks and demos is quite fascinating (in the anorak sense), and a lot of it serves to demonstrate the way raw material can be transformed from a rough sketch into finished product. Not just any old finished product either, but work good enough to make it on to an album that eventually wound up becoming one of the most critically acclaimed albums of its decade. For example, there’s a track called ‘Grunggae’, which is a raw very early take on the band’s breakthrough single ‘Cannonball’. There’s ‘Cro-Aloha’, which eventually became ‘No Aloha’ on the album, and the single version of ‘Divine Hammer’, which is quite different from the one found on the album. There’s also a live (at Glastonbury) take on early fan favourite ‘Iris’. Plus plenty more.The Stockholm gig that makes up the majority of the third disc is probably not quite so compelling, but it’s a worthwhile enough exercise in that it captures the band in its prime, albeit in very much a rough and ready state. It represents the DIY rock n roll ethic at its most ragged, and The Breeders were nothing if not nonchalant champions of that particular form. I’d not heard the band’s live take on ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The Beatles) before so it was worth it for that alone. The BBC session at the end of the disc – four live-in-the-studio tracks including yet another version of ‘Divine Hammer’ – feels like an add-on, an afterthought perhaps. Regardless, this is great value for money (providing you buy into the idea that deluxe editions are not solely released to sell you what you already own) and I’ve enjoyed revisiting Last Splash again, 20 years after the fact.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

It's Immaterial Life's Hard And Then You Die



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It's Immaterial has qualities that can't be discerned from one listen, at least on the band's debut LP, Life's Hard and Then You Die. Patience is really needed to let this record's oddball hooks kick in. The opening track, "Driving Away From Home (Jim's Tune)," is its most accessible. "Driving Away From Home" is a moody travelogue wherein John Campbell's half-spoken, half-sung vocals and Jarvis Whitehead's locomotive beat capture both the weariness and sense of wonder of being on a long road trip. Musically, the LP is all over the place -- new wave, country, blues, folk, and synth pop. Somehow the smorgasbord of styles works, because the bandmembers aren't being eclectic just for the sake of it; they simply have a wide canvas, keeping the album fresh from beginning to end. When Campbell talks, it isn't because he can't sing; the man has a lovely voice, especially during the transcendent chorus of "Space." On "Better Idea" and "Hang on Sleepy Town," Campbell creates an air of sadness that is felt more deeply with each listen. It's Immaterial manages to stay focused, never allowing its genre-bending to veer out of control. "Sweet Life" takes a bite out of Echo & the Bunnymen's brittle, psychedelic riffs and provides a Spanish flavor. Like much of Life's Hard and Then You Die, it grows on the listener. When "Festival Time" erupts into total chaos -- pulsating keyboards, brazen horns, samples of horses, operatic voices -- it sounds like a mess at first, but repeated spins reveal how well crafted it is. The CD version of Life's Hard and Then You Die is the one to search for. The CD adds three bonus cuts -- the gripping "Washing the Air" (with ghostly singing from Campbell and reptilian guitars that recall James Bond's instrumental theme) and different versions of "Ed's Funky Diner" and "Driving Away From Home."

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Barmy Army ‎The English Disease



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In light of both the hobbyhorse donkeys playing soccer on the cartoon jacket cover and the disparaging band and album names, the unsuspecting listener might take this late-'80s release from the On-U Sound label to be one definitive cheap shot at England's national obsession. But considering the preponderance of English soccer references in the song titles and a dizzying and sympathetic array of game-day samples from crowd chants to broadcast-booth snippets, this Barmy Army album works more as a musical homage peppered with a good-natured jab or two. Politics aside, Barmy Army, like Dub Syndicate and Tackhead, was one of the many bands producer Adrian Sherwood oversaw as head of On-U Sound (the personnel for some of these groups were often interchangeable). Enlisting the help of former Sugar Hill Records house band members -- guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbish, and drummer Keith Le Blanc -- Sherwood shifts from the reggae and dub-centered sound of his earlier productions to a more rock and electronica-dominated mix here. The results are often riveting and perfect for a few pre-game pints at the pub with your fellow football hooligans. And with the strategic placing of telling fan quotes and "the nature of sport" sound bytes, this love letter also works as a provocative meditation on soccer's place in England's collective social conscience.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Ian Brown ‎The Greatest


Ian Brown The Greatest CD1/CD2

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As Ian Brown is not exactly renowned for his lack of self-belief, The Greatest is an appropriately egotistical title for the first compilation from the Madchester scene's golden boy. Brown is always more consistent as a singles artist, and so this 2005 collection, which gathers 15 tracks from his first four albums, is perhaps the ideal showcase for the former Stone Roses frontman's talents. Kicking off with three tracks from 1998's Unfinished Monkey Business, debut single "My Star" set the blueprint for his solo career, combining cod-mysticism, Middle Eastern instrumentation, and psychedelic indie rock with his trademark languid vocal delivery, a formula Brown clearly adheres to on the likes of the space rock of "Longsight M13" and the sole new composition, "All Ablaze." However, the Morricone-inspired Spaghetti western vibes of "Time Is My Everything," the authentic brass-fused reggae of "Lovebug" (previously only available on the U.S./Japan edition of 2004's Solarized), and the jangly Americana of "Corpses in Their Mouths," a bitter diatribe against former bandmate John Squire, proved that the self-described "monkey man" was no one-trick pony. All the singles are here (bar his lowest-charting release, "Whispers"), including the two Noel Gallagher collaborations ("Can't See Me," "Keep What Ya Got", unexpected Top Five hit "Dolphins Were Monkeys," and his two guest spots with UNKLE ("Be There," "Reign"), but it's 2001's "F.E.A.R.," a haunting string-soaked slice of baggy hip-hop cleverly creating a series of acronyms from the title, that remains his defining moment. this comprehensive retrospective finally puts his money where his mouth is.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

John Lydon ‎The Best Of British £1♫'s


John Lydon The Best Of British £1♫'s CD1/CD2

Get It At Discogs
Rightly or wrongly I've always looked on the Sex Pistols and PiL as completely different things. And I have to admit at first I wasn't sure about having them on the same compilation, but it really is amazing how well they work together. You only have to listen to the first few tracks to hear it. I mean what a way to start: 'Anarchy in the UK', 'Public Image', 'This is Not a Love Song', 'Open Up.' How good is that? Taking the records out of chronological order really was a masterstroke. It might be stuff I've heard a million times before, but listening to it I was genuinely excited to hear them work together. One after another, it's relentless! It made me remember just how much I liked them; and why. Make no mistake about it this compilation isn't a case of John Lydon claiming all the glory for these records and bands by himself (check the credits). It's just a great way of showcasing the variety of his work. Obviously, John is the common dominator here (and what does that tell you?), but there's much more than that; there's a proper thread here. Through PiL, through the Pistols, through his solo work, but you work it out for yourself, that's the whole point. I know what they mean to me. I think this compilation works on so many different levels it encompasses (almost) everything… As well as pandering to the casual, or potential new fan, it also lets fans of each band or period – whether it be early PiL, late PiL, Sex Pistols or whatever – have access to a whole bunch of records they might not necessarily have heard or own. It crosses a lot of divides. Which is a big part of what John's music is all about. Every single record here is as relevant as the next. Some of the stuff you love someone else might hate, or vice versa. It makes them no less important. For whatever bizarre reason John's musical output is largely ignored these days. A lot of this material just doesn't get played as much as it deserves, but hopefully this compilation will bring a whole new audience to a lot of this music. There really will be young kids out there who will only know John from the Pistols or TV who are going to get a very pleasant surprise. They might not get it all at once, but they'll have fun going through it. These records change lives and that's a fact. This isn't a rarities compilation for the hardcore fans, it's not about that. But that said, even they can't really argue. It's a superb compilation that's had a great deal of thought put into it; it's not some horrible cash-in. If you don't want to buy it: don't. You're getting all of John's singles; bar 'Pretty Vacant' and 'Memories' (and they would have been there if they had fitted, but something had to give), and with 20 remastered tracks crammed onto Disc 1 (and running to over 75 minutes) no one can say it's not value for money. Given that the original single version's are featured here, and tracks like 'This is Not a Love Song' & 'World Destruction' have never really had a proper CD release, there's more than enough to please even the most cynical fan. The Best of British £1 Notes CD: special edition There is also the option of the 'special edition' featuring a bonus disc of a further 12 tracks handpicked by John (running to another 80 minutes). Although mostly compiled from extended 12" mixes it also includes some of his favourite album tracks. It really is great to hear underrated material like 'The Pardon' or 'Acid Drops' mixing it with the big boys like the 12" mixes of 'Death Disco' or 'Open Up'. It also gives the 2002 dance mix of 'GSTQ' a far wider audience. At long last. While I'd love to hear an extended version I honestly think John has just about packed more lyrics into it than any other song on the compilation. More a controlled chant than a rap, he twists the vocal and the pronunciation the way only John Lydon can. Given the variety that's on display here it really is a badge of honour that 'The Rabbit Song' doesn't sound like anything else on the compilation. Of course, I don't expect any of the other songs on his forthcoming album to sound like this, but if it's anything to go by, it's going to be a real treat. Have no doubt about it there's life in the old dog yet, he's not about to go the way of the £1 note…

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Wah! ‎The Handy Wah! Whole Songs From The Repertwah! The Maverick Years 2000


Wah! The Handy Whole Songs From The Repertwah! The Maverick Years 2000 CD1/CD2

Get It At Discogs
Pete Wylie, a mouthy Scouser with an unerring knack for penning anthemic pop songs, has been making records for more than 35 years now. As the sticker on the cover of this long-awaited compilation of his entire recording career says, "Pete Wylie is The Mighty Wah! - the exclamation mark ever-present (one of those legacies of the 1980s, but forever appropriate for such impassioned music). Which he is, of course, and has pretty much always been despite the pretence of their ever being an actual band set-up - the early releases did feature other musicians, but only one person was ever calling the shots and pulling the strings. The name kept altering through the years, as though Wylie's restless spirit couldn't help but fiddle with moniker-changing and continual relaunches. Perhaps it eventually counted against him, for in the aftermath of their massive breakthrough hit "The Story Of The Blues (Part 1)" in early 1983, Wylie never truly capitalized on his burgeoning status as a brilliant new voice - even though he'd been kicking around the Liverpool scene since the late 1970s. His peers were Julian Cope (Teardrop Explodes), Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) and Pete Burns (Dead Or Alive). Each had their time in the spotlight, but it's no exaggeration to claim that Wylie had possibly the most potential of all to really make a name for himself as a bona-fide modern pop icon...his songs were heartfelt, hook-laden walls of sound. In an alternate universe, several of the track featured here would have been Number 1s. As it was, the #3 peak of "Story Of The Blues" proved the commercial pinnacle of his achievements. "The Handy Wah! Whole" - a typically overblown and punsome title - is nevertheless a celebratory experience, rather than a bitter bout of reminsicence of what might (and should) have been. 31 tracks in chronological order, and not one filler among them. This retrospective begins with a clutch of lesser-known tracks from the early Wah! EPs (in those days, EPs were the thing for emerging bands on Independent labels). They serve to chart Wylie's progression from standard post-punk pop - Better Scream, Hey (Disco) Joe - to the sweeping grandeur first evidenced on The Death Of Wah! and continued throughout the rest of his output. Chart-followers will be most familar with the string of 1980s classics that enjoyed varying degrees of success. The Story Of The Blues was folllowed by Hope (I Wish You'd Believe Me) - which sent the train slightly off the rails by only reaching #37, the magnificent Come Back! (#20 in July 1984), Weekends (a caustic dig at the popstar lifestyle "Or swan on a beach in Sri Lanka, just like Duran Duran...."), Sinful! - probably Wylie's best-known song having been a hit twice over in 1986 and 1991 (when he was joined by the then-huge outfit The Farm), Diamond Girl (appearing on an album for the very first time here), If I Love You, and the simply gorgeous Fourelevenfortyfour. Mini-epics one and all. These songs alone would make any Wah! collection essential, never mind the rest. But the rest also happens to feature some overlooked gems. Sleep (A Lullaby For Josie) dates back to 1983, and ranks among the highlights on offer. I Know There Was Something, the 8-minute standout from 1984's A Word To The Wiseguy album, has lost none of its intensity...an amibitous but fairly bleak experience which Wylie - in the extensive and candidly entertaining sleeve notes - can't stand listening to now. I Know There was Something closes proceedings on Disc 1...which has 18 tracks and runs for 77 minutes. The next single - Sinful! - would not be credited to any form of Wah! whatsoever, being released under his own name, and so makes the sensible start to Disc 2. It was a new era, and a time for change, as Wylie himself notes. Most of the latter tracks on the second CD, which despite containing 13 tracks also runs for the same length of time as the first, will only be familar to the most die-hard Wylie fan. 1991's Don't Lose Your Dreams was his last high-profile single - although, naturally, it underperformed spectacularly when it deserved to make the Top 10....at the very least. In light of many other great 80s acts' subsequent exile from the nation's consciousness thanks to a scandalously selective and unfairly prejudiced media, Wylie's plight is nothing particularly untoward. Brief dabblings in dance-friendly textures on Getting Out Of It made way for post-Verve guitar based string-laden ballads such 1999's Heart As Big As Liverpool, yet not even the major resurgence of such music gave him that elusive shot at a triumphant comeback. It seemed as though Wylie was now forever consigned to the sidelines, a footnote in modern pop as that lippy bloke from Liverpool with the big tunes. The Handy Wah! Whole is probably not going to reverse that, sadly, but it should hopefully remind a good few people just what the man is, has been, and always will be capable of,This is his story, and he's sticking to that. Good for him.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Pete Wylie & Wah! The Mongrel ‎Infamy! Or How I Didn't Get Where I Am Today



Pete Wylie & Wah! The Mongrel Infamy! Or How I Didn't Get Where I Am Today

Get It At Discogs
Peter Wylie is not an artist who plays it safe. Following the success of Sinful, Wylie returned to his band name of Wah! (dropping the "Mighty" but adding "Mongrel") and created this somewhat difficult, angry album. Whereas on past releases Wylie wrote some very melodic tunes, this is not really the case here. He jams in words much like a rap artist, but this is not rap. This is angry rock & roll. Wylie's guitar work has never sounded so tight and loud, and the vocals are as strong as ever. The overall production is very hard and KLF's presence is felt throughout the songs, but through all of the sound, this is still a Peter Wylie album.
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