Saturday, 22 April 2017

Art Of Noise Daft


Art Of Noise Daft

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The place for Art of Noise neophytes to start, Daft collects (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art of Noise! and Into Battle with the Art of Noise, along with two reworkings of "Moments in Love" from the original U.K. release of that song, to make a fantastic hour's worth of music. If anything, a single or two aside, Daft beats out the official Best Of compilation by a mile. Having aged superbly with time, AON's early works sound all the more advanced and of the moment, a testament especially to Trevor Horn's excellent production and Anne Dudley's gripping arrangements. Further entertainment comes from the liner notes, which aren't merely state-of-the-art 1984 album design but an apparently barbed attack on the further incarnation of the band from one Otto Flake. The exact seriousness of this is up to the reader. As for the "Moments in Love" versions, both are gentler and more elegant than the already lush original,

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‎The Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Special Edition



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Nick Cave is unquestionably an album artist. Each of his records has a specific mood and theme, standing as an individual work. That said, his albums have also been notoriously uneven. Sometimes, as on From Her to Eternity or The Boatman's Call, he has delivered near-masterpieces, while on other albums, only a handful of songs have hit the mark accurately, which is why The Best of Nick Cave is a welcome addition to his catalog. Granted, the title is a bit odd (it's better than Greatest Hits, however), but the compilation itself is as good as it could possibly be. All the major songs -- "Red Right Hand," "Straight to You," "Nobody's Baby Now," "Into My Arms," "Do You Love Me?," "Henry Lee," "Where the Wild Roses Grow," "From Her to Eternity" 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Pixies Death To The Pixies



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Just as people can't imagine rock music without the Beatles, one can't help but wonder what alternative and grunge would sound like had there never been a Pixies. Having damn near invented the soft, acoustic verse followed by the exploding, distorted chorus that grungers so favored, the Pixies were the inventors of a craft. They wrote the book on alternative. Death to the Pixies' first of two discs is a collection of some of the Pixies' best-loved and best-known songs, and it spans their career, from their 1987 debut Surfer Rosa to their 1991 wave goodbye, Trompe le Monde. It also acts as a "greatest hits" of sorts, as every Pixies song you've ever heard on commercial alternative radio ("Here Comes Your Man", "Gigantic", "Monkey Gone to Heaven", etc.) are all here. Disc two serves as a decent collection of live performances

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

UNKLE ‎Psyence Fiction


UNKLEPsyence Fiction

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James Lavelle and DJ Shadow are unequal partners in UNKLE, with the former providing the concept and the latter providing music, which naturally overshadows the concept, since the only clear concept -- apart from futuristic sound effects, video-game samples, and merging trip-hop with rock -- is collaborating with a variety of musicians, from superstars to cult favorites Kool G Rap, Alice Temple, and Mark Hollis (who provides uncredited piano on "Chaos"). Since Shadow's prime gift is for instrumentals, the prospect of him collaborating with vocalists is more intriguing than enticing, and Psyence Fiction is appropriately divided between brilliance and failed experiments. Shadow and Lavelle aren't breaking new territory here -- beneath the harder rock edge, full-fledged songs, and occasional melodicism, the album stays on the course Endtroducing... set. Shadow isn't given room to run wild with his soundscapes, and only a couple of cuts, such as the explosive opener, "Guns Blazing," equal the sonic collages of his debut. Initially, that may be a disappointment, but UNKLE gains momentum on repeated listens. Portions of the record still sound a little awkward -- Mike D's contribution suffers primarily from recycled Hello Nasty rhyme schemes -- yet those moments are overshadowed by Shadow's imagination and unpredictable highlights, such as Temple's chilly "Bloodstain" or Badly Drawn Boy's claustrophobic "Nursery Rhyme," as well as the masterstrokes fronted by Richard Ashcroft (a sweeping, neo-symphonic "Lonely Soul") and Thom Yorke (the moody "Rabbit in Your Headlights"). These moments might not add up to an overpowering record, but in some ways Psyence Fiction is something better -- a superstar project that doesn't play it safe and actually has its share of rich, rewarding music

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Roxy Music ‎Avalon


Roxy MusicAvalon

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Flesh + Blood suggested that Roxy Music were at the end of the line, but they regrouped and recorded the lovely Avalon, one of their finest albums. Certainly, the lush, elegant soundscapes of Avalon are far removed from the edgy avant-pop of their early records, yet it represents another landmark in their career. With its stylish, romantic washes of synthesizers and Bryan Ferry's elegant, seductive croon, Avalon simultaneously functioned as sophisticated make-out music for yuppies and as the maturation of synth pop. Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics. "More Than This," "Take a Chance with Me," "While My Heart Is Still Beating," and the title track are immaculately crafted and subtle songs, where the shifting synthesizers and murmured vocals gradually reveal the melodies. It's a rich, textured album and a graceful way to end the band's career

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Lemonheads The Best Of The Lemonheads The Atlantic Years



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Evan Dando -- for all intents and purposes, he is the Lemonheads -- is a sporadically brilliant songwriter. Every one of his albums contains as many flops as masterpieces, sometimes more. Hardcore fans have learned to live with this and even cherish his dopey detours, but there are many others who would prefer to have all the best bits on one disc. Which means, of course, that The Best of the Lemonheads: The Atlantic Years offered the perfect opportunity to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, it was bungled, at least in America (it was released in Europe and Japan with more tracks). With the exception of "Mrs. Robinson" (never a favorite of hardcore fans, but included for those nostalgic Gen-Xers), it's hard to argue with what's here, but it feels criminally brief at 12 tracks, especially since the songs are rarely over three minutes long. It's entertaining, to be sure, and it makes a convincing argument that Dando is a clever pop craftsman, but it leaves you wanting more -- which isn't really what best-of albums should do

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Saint Etienne ‎You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone



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Continuing the trend of Beach Boys-inspired album titles that started with 1992's So Tough and continued through 1997's Good Humor, 1993's You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone is a straightforward singles collection covering St. Etienne's first two or three years. Originally released as a bonus disc with vinyl copies of So Tough, You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone collects 11 single A- and B-sides that had made it neither onto that album nor onto their full-length debut, 1991's masterful Foxbase Alpha. This includes alternate single mixes of "Kiss and Make Up" (St. Etienne's debut single, from before Sarah Cracknell installed herself as the group's full-time vocalist) and "People Get Real" from the debut, and a slinky mix of So Tough's "Join Our Club." The album also features the otherwise non-LP single "Who Do You Think You Are," one of St. Etienne's most groove-oriented tunes

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Boo Radleys ‎Giant Steps Deluxe Edition


The Boo RadleysGiant Steps Deluxe Edition

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Giant Steps was a colossal record for its time. Colossal. The music rags fell over themselves with platitudes for The Boo Radleys. It was the kind of worship that bordered on sycophantic and payola-driven. Yet, these Creation All-Stars in a pre-Oasis world were the label’s brightest hope, and what was clear from the start was the epic title matched the grandiose trail-breaking feel of the record. You stopped what you were doing and took notice. It was that kind of record. A psychedelic pop record, an indie guitar record, a dub-based groove record, a falling down the rabbit-hole record. Giant Steps wasn’t the Boo’s out-of-the-blue debut. Not by any means. This Liverpool/London quartet had been punching their weight for a few years now, with Giant Steps appearing a year after the Dinosaur Jr/MBV fuzz n’ pop of 1992’s Everything’s Alright Forever. With songwriter/guitarist Martin Carr’s bursting back-pocket Bernard Butler riff, “I Hang Suspended” became the perfect “and away we go!” track to launch the album with vocalist Sice’s featherweight vocals giving Giant Steps an airy, otherworldly feel. The dub/reggae rhythms of “Upon 9th And Fairchild”, the breezy, downbeat vibe of “Wish I Was Skinny”. The shoegaze n‘ politics of “Rodney King (Song For Lenny Bruce)”, the soaring dub-sympathy of “Lazarus”. Every track was a larger-than-life chapter in a book that was 17 songs long.When you think of what Radiohead were doing at the same time and what The Boo Radleys did with Giant Steps, it’s a crime The Boo’s number never came up the same. The album drips with madcap invention and the same kind of technicolour studio wizardry that an obvious Beatles acolyte such as Carr saw as the ultimate goal. But how do you go about topping the freakish genius of Giant Steps? When Wake Up! rolled around two years later, the playground had changed so significantly that the shoegazers were extinct and the talk about town was this thing called “Britpop”. Almost sensing the sea change in the works, the sprightly lead track and single “Wake Up Boo!” found quick favour with the Britpop kids and morning television presenters, but it’s the kind of song that if someone walked into your room singing (with its “wake up, it’s a beautiful morning!” refrain), you’d feel inclined to knock them clear into tomorrow. Wake Up! had its moments (it topped the UK album charts, no less) and listening with a fresh pair of ears, it’s a more than adequate follow-up, but one that sold largely on the back of Britpop and the terminally infectious “Wake Up Boo!”. More reigned in and focussed than its predecessor, Wake Up! toned down the roaming psychedelia and tightened up on the Beatles influence, appearing most noticeably on the sing-along nursery rhyme feel of “Find The Answer Within” and the backmasking mad freak-out “Joel”. The Elvis Costello shuck and jive of “It‘s Lulu“ missed its mark as a single, and in its place should’ve been given over to swooning falsetto pop of “Stuck On Amber”, the only track to hit the same Giant Steps stratosphere while straddling the pervading Britpop ethos. The Camden scene name-dropping of “Charles Bukowski Is Dead” places Wake Up! in a semi-perfect time capsule for the Britpop era, but it was never to be one of those defining releases. Looking back, it’s almost as if Giant Steps never happened, overshadowed by your Definitely Maybe’s and your Parklife’s, yet clearly deserving of the same stature. Cherry Red’s deluxe treatment rounds up the various pre/post album releases (including the classic Adrenalin and Boo Forever! EPs) as well as all extraneous b-sides which means each Deluxe Edition winds up being a whopping 3CDs long each. With b-sides always being the sole domain of the fan, it’s a mixed bag, but there’s a few forgotten gems scattered around — the Boo’s cover of Fat Larry’s Band’s R&B hit “Zoom”, the St. Etienne Remix of “Rodney King” to name just a few. Though the eight (count’em) mixes/versions of “Lazarus” do begin to test your mettle, but if that’s the worst, you’re still in for one hell of a treat.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Trashcan Sinatras ‎Weightlifting


Trashcan SinatrasWeightlifting

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The Trash Can Sinatras' third album, 1996's A Happy Pocket, sank out of sight on a wave of apathy from the record-buying public, critics, and seemingly the bandmembers themselves. Apart from a hard to find EP from 2000, Weightlifting is the group's first album since and it is a satisfying return to the jangling heights of their wonderful albums Cake (1990) and I've Seen Everything (1993). The band has thankfully made few concessions to modern times. There are no drum loops, soundscapes, or duff hip-hop tracks; nothing here wouldn't have sounded perfect in the early '90s. They also have written a batch of soothingly melodic, achingly pretty songs that may not contain anything as immediate or hooky as "Obscurity Knocks" or "Hayfever," but still pack quite the emotional punch. Frank Reader's voice is the same sweet melancholy croon that it was back in the day, and he wraps it around some melancholy gems that will be twanging the heartstrings of Trash Can fans both old and new. The majority of the album's tracks are lovely ballads like "Got Carried Away," "What Woman Do to Men," and "A Coda," the last being the best of them with its strings and Scottish soul feel. "Usually" is the standout; Reader sounds positively angelic and the strings bathe him in sorrowful splendor. "Country Air" is also a splendid cut with some plangent acoustic guitar, loads of atmosphere, and some smart soundtrack-flavored chord changes. The uptempo songs are darn good, too; "Welcome Back" is a powerful opener and statement of intent, "It's a Miracle" combines classic '90s jangle pop guitars with a bouncing beat and some rumbling timpani, and the title track has rich backing vocals and Reader's most intimate and powerful vocals. The song that should be a hit is the glittering "Freetime," with its jaunty beat, winning melody, and bells -- of course it won't be, but what can you do? Play it again and again, one supposes. The only small flaw with the album is the occasional heavy metal guitar solo that stands out like a sore plectrum. That kind of guitar-store technique has little place in music as charming and sweetly pastoral as this. Luckily, it only rears its ugly mug once or twice, most notably on "Welcome Back." Apart from that, Weightlifting is like a gift to anyone who was left hanging by the band's disappearance. Listening to the record makes you feel like it's 1993 again -- in a good way; a melodic, honest, and jangly kind of way; a way that makes you think "nobody makes records like this anymore." Hey, not too many people made them as good as this back then, either. A great comeback that deserves every last bit of attention it gets.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Suede Sci-Fi Lullabies



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Few debut singles have the impact of Suede's "The Drowners," which helped set the course to Britpop and established Suede as one of the U.K.'s most important bands. In that light, it isn't surprising that the B-sides were considered as important as the A-side -- the slow, grinding "My Insatiable One" was covered in concerts by Morrissey weeks after its release, while the band often closed shows with the majestic "To the Birds." The strength of the "Drowners" B-sides wasn't an anomaly -- it established a precedent of high-quality B-sides that Suede strove to maintain on their first three albums. The double-disc Sci-Fi Lullabies collects the majority of those B-sides, leaving behind the odd live track and remix, as well as the worthy "Painted People" and "Asda Town" and the non-LP single "Stay Together." What's included is stellar, offering an alternate history of Suede. In fact, the first disc -- comprised of Suede and Dog Man Star B-sides, plus the haunting "Europe Is Our Playground" -- is as strong as any of their albums, featuring such essentials as the sleazy "He's Dead," "The Living Dead," "My Dark Star," the storming "Killing of a Flash Boy," the sighing "Where the Pigs Don't Fly," and "Whipsnade," all strong enough to be A-sides. Disc two isn't quite as consistent, which might be because they're all drawn from the singles for Coming Up, but it does find the band exploring their darker, more adventurous side, which they largely suppressed on that record. Unlike most B-sides compilations, Sci-Fi Lullabies is far from extraneous -- for any Suede fan, and most fans of contemporary Britpop, this is absolutely essential material, confirming the group's status as one of the '90s' greatest bands.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Microdisney ‎39 Minutes


Microdisney39 Minutes

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In many ways Microdisney exemplify the difficulties facing any band who feel that they have something valid and non-conformist to say but are also driven by a desire to bring that vision to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. Within those terms of reference, 39 Minutes may be a definitive offering. Certainly, it is by far the Micros' most polished effort to date, slick and streamlined yet much harder and more direct than last year's Crooked Mile which, on reflection, sounds rushed and strangely incomplete. The melodies are as comforting and reassuring as a familiar fireside and a bottle of well-aged malt - but what separates Microdisney from the Johnny Hates Jazz' and even Prefab Sprouts (with whom the Disneys have more in common than one night think) of the world, is the lyrical bile of Cathal Coughlan. "You've got dreams and I've got dreams", he sings on 'High And Dry' and his unwillingness to lie down and write a few nonsensical ditties and let the resultant ackers exorcise his troubled spirits must be the cause of great consternation when Virgin's annual accounts are totted up. On 39 Minutes both Mr. C's dander and muse must have been up extremely early in the morning as the targets are spread wide and none - but none - are missed with as vicious a verbal volley as is conceivable in 'mainstream' pop. And yet, no matter how many times Coughlan twists the knife, there's always a flowing melody courtesy of Sean O'Hagan to soften the blow, which continually drags the listener back to the songs and ultimately prolongs the public humiliation of the target. Taking lines of lyrics out of context is not something which becomes these songs as Coughlan treats each track as an entity rather than stumbling upon a snappy couplet and working backwards and around it to arrive at the finished text. The subjects tackled encompass tabloid harassment ('Singer's Hampstead Home'), the devaluation of the media ('Bluerings'), cultural imperialism ('Herr Director') and the pernicious influence of colonialism ('Send Herman Home'). The latter is one of the album's standouts as a perfect impersonation of a well-known Northern political figure leads into a razor-sharp rhythm track, O'Hagan's guitar-playing leading you to think that the lad grew up in Memphis rather than Cork, and the mid-section features a tap-dancing solo which mutates into the sound of stomping jackboots (incidentally, the tap-dancing/jackboots solo is credited to Eugene Terrablanche and John Hermon… naughty boys!). Off the wall, playful and hurtful, 'Send Herman Home' is arguably the best song Microdisney have ever recorded. Whatever fate ultimately befalls Microdisney, be it chart acceptance or the dreaded epithet of 'cult status', there can be no remotely convincing argument against the assertion that they're making some of the best and most provocative pop music ever to have emanated from this country. 39 Minutes catches them at their very best.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Frank And Walters ‎Trains, Boats And Planes


The Frank And WaltersTrains, Boats And Planes

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Trains, Boats and Planes is a charming early release from the Frank & Walters. The album sees the band creating music of a more anthem-oriented rock sound than later releases. The subject matter is the same, but the songwriting is less subtle. The music is overall more dependent on guitars than Beauty Becomes More Than Life and Glass. The feel of the album is actually quite similar to that of Grand Parade, but the production isn't as sharp and there's less refinement of the musical grandeur on display. The album sees the band concerned primarily with matters of the heart and friendships. On "This Is Not a Song," Paul Linehan sings that the song isn't about politics, sex, James Dean, animals, trees, or wealth; it's "a song I wrote especially for you/I want to say thank you for having me." There's quite a few touching, sincere, and sweetly awkward moments of a similar nature on the album. "Trainspotters," with a guitar underscore that sounds straight from Johnny Marr's songbook, sees the bittersweet tale of a trainspotter named Tim, with Linehan asking, "Does Timmy know the score?" It's the sort of touching moment fans have come to adore. Every song maintains an optimistic core that things will always turn out right with a little bit of love in one's heart. "Fashion Crisies Hits New York" employs epic guitars and deeper-pitched vocals than usual from Linehan and jangling background sounds.Since it was out of print for quite some time, it might be a pleasant find for newcomers. It would be hard to imagine a more positive, under-appreciated band than the Frank & Walters, and these 11 songs simply prove that a band can continue along in one style, with only minute changes from album to album, and have an incredible career. Trains, Boats and Planes is entirely winning, and it's a necessary addition to any fan's collection.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Public Image Limited 9


Public Image Limited 9

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9 features essentially the same group of characters found on Happy?, with only Lu Edmonds having left the fold (though he did contribute to the writing on each song). Seven studio albums, seven lineups -- Lydon failed yet again to keep the same people together for more than one record. But is this notion really of major consequence? Not really, and Lydon probably prides himself in it. Thankfully, 9 retained the Happy? core of Bruce Smith, John McGeoch, and Allan Dias. If Happy? and various points prior were flirtations with accessible dance-pop, 9 was a bear hug embrace of it. 9 is split between a modern rock record and a dance producer-derived one, but credit both producers and band for making it a successful combination; on paper, the game plan looks like an accident waiting to happen. Stephen Hague was responsible for just over half of the album's production, with E.T. Thorngren working on the remainder and Nellee Hooper mixing one of Thorngren's productions. 9 is easily PiL's slickest yet, but there's substance to balance it out. The catchy "Disappointed" provided the band's greatest success in the States, with plenty of airplay on modern rock radio stations and light rotation on MTV. Other highlights: the dubby, almost Police-like near-instrumental "U.S.L.S. 1" and the surprising use of acoustic guitar on "Worry." Lowlights: the slightly goofy "Sand Castles in the Snow," the oddball fusion of Asiatic keyboards and late-'80s R&B on "Like That," the character play of Lydon in "Warrior."

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Talk Talk ‎The Colour Of Spring


Talk TalkThe Colour Of Spring

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Many people look back on Talk Talk as the band that pioneered post-rock. It's easy to look back favourably on them in retrospect, but as is the case with many genre pioneers, they weren't appreciated in their day and age. Despite the cult following both The Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock have developed, they were largely passed off as pretentious and bloated at their time of release, when nobody could look back like we can to see the impact these albums would have on the modern musical landscape. It should be noted that the bands third album, The Colour of Spring is actually their best-selling album, containing their most popular singles while performing leaps and bounds over their previous releases in terms of both originality and quality. By doing away with the synth-heavy new wave the band had developed and taking influences from jazz and art-pop, the band created an eclectic melting pot that paved the way for it's successors without alienating fans, making it a defining album for the band and a landmark transition album for music as a whole. Right from the get go, the band wastes no time establishing their new direction with “Happiness Is Easy”. Beginning with nothing but a repeating drum track, the track is immediately more bare-boned than anything in their back catalogue, but the slow and careful addition of layers to it's skeletal structure indicates a far more mature approach to their song-writing. The song slowly builds into a track somewhat more familiar to fans; Hollis' signature croon is still here, as are the addictive grooves and a memorable chorus, but there's something different. The expressive strings that ease in a little over a minute into the song, the extended instrumental sections, a far wider instrumental palate, all of these show a band striving to take an idea and push it to its limit. The singles of the album (#16 hit “Life's What You Make It” and #48 single “Living In Another World) also adhere to this pattern, bearing a loose similarity to past singles but containing more experimentation, more creativity and as such are a more satisfying experience overall. They are no less addictive when compared to past singles, but there is a whole new level of depth given to these new songs. However these tracks are the reason that, despite how far Talk Talk expanded their sound here, one foot was grounded firmly in the past. The real meat of the album lies in between these more fan-friendly cuts. “April 5th” marks the most haunting ballad of the band's career, expanding on the morose sound played with in the second track and multiplying it tenfold. Throwing in a wider range of instruments (including a saxophone, a variophon, a dobro and an organ), a more creative song structure and some of Mark Hollis' most emotive vocals makes this the most unique track thus far in the bands career. This is their first big step in the direction of their future sound, and an important statement from the band. This statement is furthered by the 7th track, “Chameleon Day”. Easily the most experimental song on the album, this piece wouldn't be out of place on either of their following albums, consisting of nothing but an extremely sparse jazz atmosphere and Hollis' evocative croons. The final track is the real highlight though, standing as a perfect snapshot for the entire album and the perfect marriage of old and new styles. “Time It's Time” is a monumental epic that epitomises everything the band has accomplished thus far. With more creative ideas and even more unique sounds (harmonicas, melodicas and tribal chants are a focal point of the track), the band essentially hits all of the targets they were aiming for throughout the album. The track covers several different sounds and feelings, with lyrics like “Time it's time to live through the pain, now that it's over” that perfectly reflect the atmosphere. Even though the track can become pompous and overbearing with its exuberance, it was a necessary piece to the puzzle and the perfect close to the album. While one foot is still grounded in the past, this is the foot that was planted in the future, the foot that would pioneer a new genre and affect music as we know it today. For a band with a legacy as important as Talk Talk's, it is difficult to appraise a past album without comparing it to their revered classics. These is no doubt that the albums succeeding this one were far more important to music today, but that should not diminish the success of this release, as well as its importance to the band itself. This was a masterful album in it's own right, the culmination of everything the band had built until this point, and the perfect transition into the sound they would become known for. It was the bands first successful experimentation and gave them the confidence needed to release albums as challenging as The Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock in the future. The Colour of Spring stands as an integral part of Talk Talk's history, the most pivotal moment in their career and a brilliant album that is truly worth your time.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Iggy Pop ‎A Million In Prizes The Anthology



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If you're willing to count his work in such early regional bands as the Prime Movers and the Iguanas, Iggy Pop has been playing rock & roll for over 50 years as this compilation hits the stores -- meaning there are guys in big-league rock bands who've spent years trying to be Iggy but weren't even alive when the guy first started plugging into the Real O Mind. That, dear readers, is influence, and while the man has had more than his share of creative ups and downs over those four decades, one spin of A Million in Prizes: The Anthology tells you why Iggy has always mattered, and still does -- he has never lost the ability to plug into the primal madness and furious belief that separates great rock & roll from ordinary stuff, and he can call up that near-demonic passion on a regular basis. While this isn't the first career-inclusive Iggy compilation, A Million in Prizes is comprised of two full-loaded CDs, which gives it a scale and scope that bests its closest competition, 1996's solid Nude & Rude: The Best of Iggy Pop, and it also gives full props to his work with the Stooges, featuring 11 songs from that band's various incarnations (though whose idea was it to only include one track from the epochal Fun House? For shame!). As for the solo stuff, this set follows the bizarre roller-coaster ride from the gloomy self-reappraisal of his albums with David Bowie through his desperate efforts to find his own solo voice in the 1980s to his reemergence in the new millennium as an artist who can merge mind and muscle with equal force. While not every album is represented on A Million in Prizes, this offers an accurate and compelling look at the Iggy time line, and the mastering is strong, clear, and loud (especially on the earlier material, which has long merited aural refurbishing). The liner essays from Danny Fields and Lenny Kaye are excellent, and Iggy sums himself pretty well when he tells Fields, "I get up in the morning, I look in the mirror, and I think, 'Hey, you're a pretty interesting guy.'" That may well be rock's greatest understatement, and while A Million in Prizes is hardly the final and definitive statement on Iggy Pop's life and music, as an introduction and career overview it's damn near unbeatable -- at least until Iggy finally gets the box set treatment he so richly deserves.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Doves ‎The Last Broadcast US Limited Edition




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When Doves issued Lost Souls in fall 2000, Britpop was immersed in its melodic gloom-and-doom era, ushered in by the success of Radiohead. The likes of Coldplay, Travis, Elbow, and Starsailor followed in their wake, as did Doves. What separated Doves from the rest was a glint of passion, evident on their 2000 debut, Lost Souls. Two years later, the atmospheric dreamscapes of Lost Souls were torn asunder for the musical daybreak of The Last Broadcast. As it turns out, the psychedelic vibrancy of "Catch the Sun," the brightest track on the album, pointed toward this brave second record. Gone are the hazy space rock trips and the cheerless attitudes; Doves are on the sunny side of the street for The Last Broadcast. The seven-minute sonic boom of "There Goes the Fear" finds Jimi Goodwin sharing vocals with Jez and Andy Williams for a glorious chorus. Each of them switches up vocal duties throughout, lending a joyous feel to the album itself. From the bold front of "Words" to the fiery momentum of "Pounding," The Last Broadcast shows a refreshing rawness that was absent before. The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan delivers sweeping orchestral arrangements for the sublime "Friday's Dust," while the electronic dewdrops of "The Sulphur Man" push Doves' divine ambience further to the front.Doves were caught up in making grand compositions on Lost Souls, which worked fabulously, but it was too much. They've stripped down to the basics, letting the optimism of The Last Broadcast take center stage. It's a brilliant moment.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Morrissey ‎You Are The Quarry Deluxe Edition



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At his core, Morrissey has always been conservative -- not in his politics, of course, but in how he romanticizes the past and plays by the rules of a different time. His passions, whether it's the New York Dolls or '60s British cinema, exist out of time, and he's gone to great lengths to ensure that his music also can't be pinned to a particular era, which means all his solo albums share similar musical and theatrical traits, and they're subject to the whims of fashion. In the years following the Smiths, he could rarely set a foot wrong, but sometime after releasing his best solo album, Your Arsenal, in 1992, the British music press turned on him and he was not much better than a pariah during the mid-'90s heyday of Brit-pop, the very time that he should have been celebrated as one of the great figures of British pop music, particularly since the Smiths inspired every band of note, from Suede and Blur to Oasis and Pulp. By the time he released Maladjusted in the summer of 1997, he was a forgotten legend, not even given approval of his album art, and instead of cranking out records to the diehards, he chose to move to Los Angeles and wait out the storm. He stayed quiet for seven years. During that time, fashions changed again, as they're prone to do, as Brit-pop turned toward the sullen art rock of Radiohead and Coldplay, the mainstream filled up with teen pop, and American rock music was either stuck in the death throes of grunge and punk-pop or in emo's heart-on-sleeve caterwauling, which owed no little debt to Mozzer's grandly theatric introspection in the Smiths. Instead of being seen as a has-been, as he had been in the latter half of the '90s, Morrissey was seen as a giant, name checked by artists as diverse as Ryan Adams and OutKast, so the time was ripe for a comeback. But Morrissey had waited long enough to do it on his terms, rejecting major labels for Sanctuary (on the condition that they revive the reggae imprint Attack Records) and recording You Are the Quarry with his longtime touring band, with producer Jerry Finn, best-known for his work with neo-punk bands blink-182, Sum 41, and Green Day. Finn's presence suggests that Morrissey might be changing or modernizing his sound, designing a large-scale comeback, but that runs contrary to his character. Apart from some subtleties -- the glam on Your Arsenal, the gentleness on Vauxhall and I, the prog rock on Southpaw Grammar -- he's worked the same territory ever since Viva Hate, and there's no reason for him to change now. And he doesn't. There are no surprises on You Are the Quarry. It delivers all the trademark wit, pathos, and surging mid-tempo guitar anthems that have been his stock-in-trade since the beginning of his solo career. It's not so much a return to form as it is a simple return, Morrissey picking up where he left off with Maladjusted, improving on that likeable album with a stronger set of songs and more muscular music (even if no single is as indelible as "Alma Matters"). If You Are the Quarry had been delivered in 1999, it would have been written off as more of the same, but since it's coming out at the end of a seven-year itch, he's back in fashion, so its reception is very warm. Frankly, it's nice to have his reputation restored, but that oversells the album, suggesting that it's either a breakthrough or a comeback when it's neither. It's merely a very good Morrissey album, living up to his legacy without expanding it greatly. But after such a long wait, that's more than enough.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

New Order ‎Retro


New OrderRetro

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Add Retro to the dizzying stack of New Order compilations and best-ofs. Actually, it was the second comp to come out in the last half of 2002 (International was released in October and contains nearly every song that is on Retro). With that said, Retro is probably the most expansive and interesting New Order compilation since 1987's Substance. Keeping an eye and ear on the amazing Joy Division set Heart and Soul, Rhino stepped in to publish this box as well (that alone will give Retro a bit more credibility). The packaging is more or less identical to Heart and Soul's four-CD orientation and comes complete with its own Peter Saville-directed artwork and 70-plus-page booklet. Unlike the Joy Division set, Retro makes no attempt to create a comprehensive or complete look at New Order's expansive catalog. Rather, it is set up as an ultimate mix tape that might be made for someone's cousin who knows nothing of this band. And like a mix tape, everyone's track list would be different and would probably carry on a different mood. This one is curated by four individual selectors, and each disc carries on with a major theme. The first disc, "POP," is compiled by U.K. journalist Miranda Sawyer and contains all the major New Order favorites: "Blue Monday," "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Confusion," and a few minor surprises such as "Brutal" (featured on the Beach soundtrack). John McCready, journalist and Hacienda DJ, put together a "FAN" disc that contains some moodier album cuts like "Your Silent Face" and "Sooner Than You Think." Mike Pickering (M People, Hacienda DJ), selects New Order's dance-friendly material on the "CLUB" disc. Finally, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) picks up some "LIVE" tracks -- which proves to nicely distill New Order's generally hit-or-miss concert performances. While Retro may not be a complete necessity it does pull together into one spot enough rarities (nothing too impossible to find, though) and a rather entertaining track list for obsessives.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Air Moon Safari 10th Anniversary Special Edition



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Although electronica had its fair share of chillout classics prior to the debut of Air, the lion's share were either stark techno (Warp) or sample-laden trip-hop (Mo' Wax). But while Air had certainly bought records and gear based on the artists that had influenced them, they didn't just regurgitate (or sample) them; they learned from them, digesting their lessons in a way that gave them new paths to follow. They were musicians in a producer's world, and while no one could ever accuse their music of being danceable, it delivered the emotional power of great dance music even while pushing the barriers of what "electronica" could or should sound like. (Never again would Saint Etienne be the only band of a certain age to reveal their fondness for Burt Bacharach.) The Modulor EP had displayed astonishing powers of mood and texture, but it was Air's full-length debut, Moon Safari, that proved they could also write accessible pop songs like "Sexy Boy" and "Kelly Watch the Stars." But it wasn't all pop. The opener, "La Femme d'Argent," was an otherworldly beginning, with a slinky bassline evoking Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson and a slow glide through seven minutes of growing bliss (plus a wonderful keyboard solo). The vocoderized "Remember" relaunched a wave of robot pop that hadn't been heard in almost 20 years, and the solos for harmonica and French horn on "Ce Matin La" made the Bacharach comparisons direct. Unlike most electronica producers, Air had musical ideas that stretched beyond samplers or keyboards, and Moon Safari found those ideas wrapped up in music that was engaging, warm, and irresistible.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Enigma The Cross Of Changes



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Cretu being no fool, he figured if it worked the first time, no need to change things much for the second. But he also knew not to simply go ahead and just rehash his debut for Cross of Changes, resulting in a just different enough effort along the same overall lines. The usual air of tasteful middle-of-the-road spirituality takes precedence, right down to the cover art and appropriately pantheistic quote from Persian mystic poet Rumi in the CD booklet. Needless to say, the music attempts to match the same throughout, and often succeeds. Things kick off with more of the synth-whale song noises and atmospherics from MCMXC, however there aren't any monks to be found this time around, but what sounds like the same whispering woman talking about "clearing the debts of many hundred years" and the like. From there, Cretu merrily takes the same plunge -- some of his sample choices this time around show he's got a decent record collection, including parts from Songs From the Victorious City, the striking fusion of Egyptian and Western musics from Anne Dudley and Jaz Coleman. His work with beats and loops noticeably shows a more developed edge -- while hardly an innovator, there's a bit more grime and loud in his rhythms, which in combination with extra electric guitar make a reasonable contrast to the smoother elements. Consider the rampaging conclusion to "I Love You...I'll Kill You," which while sharing some cheese with the title itself still works surprisingly well, right down to a clever Robert Plant vocal sample at the end. "Return to Innocence" was the big single from this one, not quite up there with "Sadeness" in the popular culture in the U.S. but almost inescapable elsewhere. There's another Led Zeppelin sample (this time John Bonham) and a haunting male vocal providing oomph under the fuzzy-headed greeting card philosophy of the main lyrics. It's an impressive effort, showing Cretu had a definite something in his own way.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Various ‎Just Say Yes... Sire's Winter CD Music Sampler



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Samplers are often throwaways, their contents quickly and mindlessly tossed together to promote a label's latest releases. Just Say Yes: Sire's Winter CD Music Sampler may have been produced to woo record buyers into purchasing albums by cult artists, but it offers a wealth of new wave rarities that significantly transcends its original purpose. Released in 1987, Just Say Yes: Sire CD Sampler has become a time machine delivering glimpses of cutting-edge artists before they became mainstream stars and young bands that should've but never fulfilled their commercial potential. Instead of lazily compiling singles, the CD opens with three 12" mixes, extended versions of Depeche Mode's pounding "Never Let Me Down Again," Echo & the Bunnymen's riff-heavy "Lips Like Sugar," and the Mighty Lemon Drops' toe-tapper "Out of Hand." If that wasn't enough, there are tracks like The Smiths' "Work Is a Four-Letter Word" and James' "Ya-Ho" that are probably missing from the collections of those groups' fans. Figures on a Beach's dreamy "No Stars" is a tale of unrequited love steered by jangling guitars and ethereal synths; if Simple Minds had recorded it, the song would've exploded on the charts. Although the uplifting "Young Manhood" isn't truly representative of the Wild Swans' majestic Bringing Home the Ashes LP, it is immediately catchy. Mix in Throwing Muses' otherworldly "A Feeling" and Aztec Camera's revealing confessional "How Men Are" and saying no to Just Say Yes becomes nearly impossible.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Various Artists Kats Karavan The History Of John Peel On The Radio



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Kats Karavan is a splendid 4-CD set charting the history of John Peel’s iconoclastic shows spanning 5 decades from the late 1960s until his sad and untimely death in 2004. Champion of the obscure and unheard, he introduced whole Generations of teenagers to new music and gave hundreds of bands their first mainstream broadcasts. Incredibly, 5 years have already passed since John’s death and a whole new generation is already growing up without knowing what it’s like to listen to a DJ who would play Bloc Party, followed by Ivor Cutler, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then Bong-Ra, Linton Kwesi Johnson followed by The Misunderstood. Universal Music, with the full approval of John’s family, has undertaken the unenviable task of trying to recreate one of John’s shows on this 4 cd Box set. It has been a mammoth and difficult challenge. How could anyone fit generations of listeners’ favourite sessions, singles or anecdotes onto 4 discs? There is no Undertones, no Joy Division, no Chameleons, to name but three Peel favourites who don’t appear here but all have already appeared extensively on previous Peel compilations. So wide-reaching and eclectic was John’s passion for music that this compilation could have been made ten times over without even touching the sides of his shows. Drawing material right up until John’s last ever Festive Fifty, Kats Karavan includes big players, one-hit wonders, chart toppers and those who stayed at the lower reaches. It includes tracks from the likes of Small Faces, Thin Lizzy, Aswad, The Damned, Medicine Head, The Jam, The Slits, Funboy Five, The Cure, Linton Kwesi Johnson, That Petrol Emotion, Extreme Noise Terror, Ivor Cutler, Mercury Rev, Milo, Bloc Party and many, many more. The set also includes some rarities and curiosities. The Free track, Walk In My Shadow, was considered ‘lost’ by the BBC until it was recently discovered on some old reel to reel tapes. This is the first time it has ever been available and the first time it’s been heard since the original broadcast. There is also track from The Misunderstood, the only band that John ever managed and who performed one of John’s all-time favourite gigs: “If I had to list the ten great performances I’ve seen in my life, one would be The Misunderstood at Pandora’s Box, Hollywood, 1966. My god, they were a great band!” (John Peel) John supplies backing vocals on the Altered Images track, their cover of Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue, his only appearance on record. [This is slightly incorrect, as I've let them know. It's almost certainly Peelie's only singing performance on record, mind.] To further recreate the spirit and mood of one of John’s shows, some clips of John’s own links appear from time to time. None of his ‘chat’ has been kept by the BBC so the record label used extracts of the best of what they were able to find on old cassette tapes, cleaning them up for the CD set, where they work to great effect. Kats Karavan comes complete with artwork featuring rare and unseen photographs alongside personal recollections from many of the featured artists, who were only too delighted to contribute and be involved in this homage to the late, great John Peel.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Various ‎Retro:Active (Rare & Remixed)



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Retroactive: Rare & Remixed, features tracks from Camouflage, Erasure, Vis-a-vis, Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Spoons, INXS, Dream Academy, The Other Two, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, The Beloved and Book of Love. This CD is brimming with great tracks, but favorites included on it are Camouflage's 'Great Commandment', INXS 'Burn For You' The Other Two's 'Tasty Fish', The Spoons 'Symmetry', Echo & the Bunnymen's 'Bring On The Dancing Horses' and the ultra-rare remix of The Cure's 'Boys Don't Cry'

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Various ‎Trainspotting #2 (Music From The Motion Picture Vol #2)



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The sequel to the original Trainspotting compilation includes additional tracks used in the film plus several tracks director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew MacDonald wished to use in the film, but for which they didn't have time. Beginning with the Ewan McGregor-sampling "Choose Life" by PF Project, the album includes tracks by many artists also on the original (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Underworld, Leftfield, Primal Scream) plus new additions like Heaven 17, Joy Division, Fun Boy Three and Goldie. There are also two remixes of tracks from the original: Darren Price's version of Underworld's "Born Slippy/NUXX" and Baby Doc's reworking of Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing." The result is an album quite distanced from what had become the usual practice -- soundtrack sequels based mainly on the big cash-in. Any fans of the original Trainspotting will likely enjoy the follow-up as well.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Various ‎Trainspotting (Music From The Motion Picture)



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Trainspotting concerns the adventures of a group of young, nearly criminal, drug-addicted Scottish friends. The novel, written by Irvine Welsh, became one of the most popular books in the British indie scene in the early '90s and was adapted to film in 1996 by the makers of Shallow Grave. Appropriately, an all-star collection of British pop and techno stars -- everyone from Blur, Pulp, and Elastica to Leftfield, Primal Scream, and Underworld -- contributed to the soundtrack, which also features a couple of oldies by veteran punk godfathers like Lou Reed ("Perfect Day") and Iggy Pop ("Lust for Life," "Nightclubbing"). The entire soundtrack holds together surprisingly well, as the techno tracks balance with the pop singles. Every song, whether it's Pulp's deceptively bouncy "Mile End" or Brian Eno's lush "Deep Blue Day," is quite melancholy, creating an effectively bleak, but Oddly romantic, atmosphere for the entire record. With the exception of the oldies, every song is rare or especially recorded for the soundtrack, and nearly every one is superb. Primal Scream's title track sees them returning to the dub/dance experiments of Screamadelica with grace, while Damon Albarn's first solo song, "Closet Romantic," is as good as any of Blur's waltzes. But the finest new song is Pulp's "Mile End," with its jaunty, neo-dancehall melody and rhythms and Jarvis Cocker's evocative, haunting lyrics. That song, more than anything else on the soundtrack, captures the feeling of the film.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Echo & The Bunnymen ‎Porcupine Reissue


Echo & The BunnymenPorcupine Reissue

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Did Echo & the Bunnymen ever make a classic album? Not just a good album – because almost all of their releases were good – but a stone cold classic. Maybe not. Most fans would state that Ocean Rain is their magnum opus, but is it possible that Porcupine, their third album, is equally as strong and was simply overshadowed by the work that followed? Firstly, very few albums have ever started with a two-song salvo as strong as ‘The Cutter’ and ‘The Back of Love’ – two post-punk classics that demonstrate The Bunnymen’s ability to be as playful as they are introspective, where the band drift between the two moods seamlessly within the songs. The rest of the album, while not containing any more timeless hits, finds a satisfying level of emotional depth without ever coming across as over-bearing or pretentious. A clever technique employed on Porcupine is the way that Ian McCulloch’s vocals are treated. On ‘Clay’ they sound like another Instrument, reverberating almost as much as Will Sergeant’s guitar – something that often nearly single-handedly lifts the Bunnymen above many of their peers. He has an unrivalled ability to add the perfect amount of guitar at any point, whether it’s the provocative chords in ‘Porcupine’ or those iconic jabs at the start of ‘The Back of Love’. However, that isn’t to say that Les Pattinson’s elastic bass-playing or Pete De Freitas’ tight drumming aren’t just as vital to the band’s sound. Having all the members of a band play damn close to their full potential without sounding self-absorbed is a pretty rare thing but it’s hard to deny that it happens here. On the 2003 remaster of the album, the final track is ‘Never Stop (Discotheque)’ – one of the greatest dance-rock tracks of the decade. It’s definitely the edition to pick up if you can. Although arguing about which edition to choose is splitting hairs; the fundamental point is that Porcupine is definitely the album to pick up.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Placebo ‎Once More With Feeling Singles 1996-2004 Ltd. Edition



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After ten years together, eight of those spent on the U.K. charts, Placebo exhume their past with Once More With Feeling: Singles 1996-2004. This 19-song collection includes all of their biggest hits, most notably "Nancy Boy" and "Pure Morning." It's also a look back on Placebo's conscious effort to maintain a campy, glam rock-influenced rock sound. Placebo achieved great success in their native U.K. (and at a college radio level in the U.S.) at the height of both grunge in the mid-'90s and the teen pop/emo excursions just as the new millennium got underway. As much as frontman Brian Molko's sexuality was called into question and the band's exterior appearance was a topic of conversation among the U.K. music press, Molko's androgynous appeal was equally intriguing as his gender-bending presence as a singer, so style and substance worked in favor of Placebo's place in music. Was he the pop Generation's new David Bowie? No, but he yearned to attract fans much like Bowie did during the 1970s. Molko's pixie-like peculiarity only added to Placebo's star power, so Naturally the timing of Once More With Feeling is a nice fit in the Placebo discography. It's arrangement is out of order; however, all the singles released from their 1996 self-titled debut to the fierce neo-glam statement that is 2003's Sleeping With Ghosts sound as great as they ever did. What's nice is how the select tracks from Black Market Music -- "Taste in Men," "Special K," "Slave to the Wage" -- age better simply because Placebo has aged well. The direction of Sleeping With Ghosts does the same, holding promise for what's yet to come from Placebo; just check out "The Bitter End." For a fan who has already bought every Placebo single, Once More With Feeling is only necessary for collecting purposes. For those who haven't, this singles collection is a great place to start.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Siouxsie And The Banshees Downside Up


Siouxsie And The Banshees Downside Up

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Downside Up. A 4 disc, 55 song, (34 of which appear on CD for the first time) chronological collection, of every Banshee B Side, remastered. A 76 page booklet, an introduction by Mark Paytress (author of the recent official Banshees biography), a brief word from Siouxsie and individual notes for each track by Siouxsie, Budgie and Severin. How long have we lived with these songs in one form or another? Finally you can throw away your dusty, crackling vinyl, distorted, hissy cassettes and overpriced badly put together bootlegs, because this is the 'Real McCoy'. Where to start? How about, forget everything you know and everything you've heard. Pretend you only have a basic knowledge of the Banshees from their classic singles. The upside to this is we can turn it all on its head and delve into the downside for the first time. The Banshees started their recording career with the sprightly, poppy takeaway Hong Kong Garden, more pop than punk, more accessible than anyone dared dream of, and like a true Chinese Take Away, they served up the sour with the sweet on the flip side, Voices. This isn't pop its art, it's the perfect antidote, harsh, clashing Guitar and Siouxsie's swooping vocal. This is where the journey begins. A journey that will take you almost full circle. From the experimental, the historical, the nostalgic, the sheer joy of being free of any restrictions. So, what is a B Side? The A Side (topside) is generally a commercial, a preview, an introduction to the full feature, normally an album. The B Side (downside), can be any number of things, the only restrictions being a band's imagination or creativity. Whilst many bands take the easy route and include a remix, live favourite, or an album track, the Banshees perform the rare feat of indulging themselves and their audience. Downside Up is not the tip of an iceberg, but the huge mass that is unseen below the waterline. At times the Banshees had an uncanny knack of continuing the theme, sound, or feel of a single on to it's b sides, Pulled To Bits, Eve White/Eve Black, Let Go. The B Side became an opportunity to pay homage to influences and heroes, 20th Century Boy, She Cracked, All Tomorrow's Parties. Revisit childhood memories, Supernatural Thing, Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant. Push boundaries, Voices, Slap Dash Snap. And have fun, both with themselves, their critics and their audience, Conga Congo, There's A Planet In My Kitchen. Downside Up documents the Banshees progress as musicians, as a band and as individuals. As Important as it is to finally have this great collection of songs on an official release, equally as Important is the excellent work that was involved in remastering these songs. Everything sounds brand new, fresh and sharp. Most impressive is probably the 2nd disc. Disc 1 deals mainly with the rawer songs, songs recorded with less instrumentation, disc 3 deals mainly with songs that have previously been available on CD in one format or another. Although the remastering is pristine throughout it is disc 2 and disc 4 (The Thorn E.P.) that benefit the most from remastering. By disc 2 and the opening whoosh of Tattoo, the Banshees had augmented their sound still further and the production on these songs is superb. Let Go, I Promise, Something Blue, all showcase a more delicate and multihued Banshees and it's possible to hear sounds, instruments, that you would swear were never there on your dusty old vinyl versions.
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