Saturday, 24 June 2017

Shack Time Machine (The Best Of Shack)

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Whenever Shack are mentioned in print, invariably it’s not long before phrases like ‘criminally underrated’ and ‘lost classic’ raise their clichéd heads. Formed in 1988, the Liverpudlian four-piece have always been lavished with critical praise in inverse proportion to their meagre record sales, but perhaps the best way to summarise their career to date is ‘very unlucky’. After an unremarkable first album, songwriter Michael Head and his band knew they had a potential hit on their hands with 1991’s Waterpistol. Falling somewhere between the classic Merseybeat of the Las and the fluid, Byrds-influenced melodies of the Stone Roses’ eponymous debut, it seemed perfectly placed to catapult Shack to stardom. But a series of disastrous events, including a studio fire that destroyed the master tapes, meant Waterpistol did not see the light of day until 1995, by which time the music scene had moved on. After a four-year split, 1999’s HMS Fable emerged boasting a host of Oasis-like big choruses, but they jumped on the Britpop bandwagon just as it was grinding to a halt and the charts remained untroubled. Unperturbed, Head and his sidekicks have continued to release great music ever since. Time Machine is a fine retrospective of their significant talent, featuring some of the best tracks from their four albums from Waterpistol onwards as well as several rare and previously unreleased songs. The highlights are many, but the delicious yearning harmonies of “Undecided” and “Neighbours” are probably the pick of Shack’s earlier work, while their evolution towards a more textured, orchestrated sound on 2003’s Here’s Tom With The Weather is emphatically captured on the epic “Meant To Be”, which employs scintillating mariachi brass and strings sections that would not be out of place on Love’s timeless masterpiece Forever Changes. the hitherto obscure “Al’s Vacation” stands out as one of their best compositions, a quirkily tuneful little jaunt bringing to mind the lazy psychedelic folk of Pink Floyd’s oft-overlooked post-Barrett, pre-Dark Side Of The Moon albums. If you like Shack, you may already own much of what’s here and decide you don’t need this collection. But if you’re an admirer of intelligent, imaginatively arranged guitar pop that’s yet to discover their charms, then Time Machine is quite simply an essential purchase.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Cabaret Voltaire ‎Conform To Deform '82 / '90. Archive;

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Designed as a companion piece to the 12" compilation The Original Sound of Sheffield, the three-disc Conform to Deform is the flip side, literally speaking in places. The first two discs, labeled Conform and Deform, trace a spiral path through Cabaret Voltaire's major-label period, compiling B-sides, alternate mixes, unreleased 12" singles, video outtakes, and more. Deform is probably a good word to use in conjunction with most of this material, as much of it is essentially other work poked and prodded, pulled into a new shape, and given a new name. The most extreme realization of the urge to deform comes two tracks into the second disc with "C.O.M.A.," which originally appeared on the flip side of the "I Want You" 12" single and consists of all of the album The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord placed through an audio blender -- well, it sounded nifty at the time. The third disc, Liveform, features the band live in Edinburgh in June of 1990, well after Cabaret Voltaire's catch-up transformation into a house act, on the tour for Groovy, Laidback and Nasty. The material on this third disc is, expectedly, mostly from this album, with a few nods to the past: There's a version of "Sensoria" dressed up as a house track, and a few old lyrics are slyly dropped into the middle of "Ride Baby Ride." The audience is polite to this new material, but if you listen between the songs you can also hear someone screaming for "Yashar" -- surely not a ringing endorsement. Ultimately, the Liveform disc is interesting, but it's hard to believe that someone shelling out money for a box set of Cabs obscurities would be clamoring for a live document from this particular period. The set comes with a booklet complete with a 1983 essay by Andy Gill, written just as the band was embarking on its major-label journey. The booklet is also filled out with words of praise from a new generation of artists who were influenced by the Cabs' collision of funk and electronics, but that praise will seem obvious to anyone dedicated enough to seek out this set of rarities. Those who really want to know why Cabaret Voltaire appealed to the hearts, minds, and feet of a whole generation of listeners and artists (many of whom went on to be the genesis of the techno movement) will be much happier with The Original Sound of Sheffield.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ‎Raising Sand

Robert Plant & Alison KraussRaising Sand

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You don’t have to be a fan of the country, blues or folk genres to appreciate the heartbreaking brilliance of this inspired collaboration. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss? Sounds like one of the most unlikely collaborations in contemporary music since Nick Cave gave Kylie a call. Yet the pairing of the Led Zeppelin rocker with the gorgeous young Union Station singer – under the sonic supervision of the legendary T Bone Burnett – has proved to be just as inspired a move. Recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles, Raising Sand features the two singers doing cover versions of lesser-known material from various country, R&B and folk songwriters. The songs they’ve chosen may not be very famous, but their writers sure are – Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits, Doc Watson, the Everly Brothers, Gene Clark, etc. Mixing country, blues and folk rock, the mood throughout is dreamlike, ominous and ethereal. At times, it’s downright spooky, like something you’d hear on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Not that there was ever really any doubt, but Plant and Krauss – singing both solo and in harmonies on songs well out of their respective comfort zones – prove themselves to be amazingly versatile vocalists. Plant has never sounded so wounded and vulnerable as he does on their slow take on Gene Clark’s ‘Polly Come Home’. A couple of foot-stomping honky-tonk moments aside, for the most part the music is slow, sublime and intimate – incisively crafted by, amongst others, multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger, guitarists Norman Blake and Marc Ribot, bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose. Burnett himself plays six-string guitar on a couple of tracks, while Krauss’s fiddle also gets some welcome workouts. While there are obvious standouts – Krauss’s wonderful take on Sam Philip’s ‘Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us’, Plant’s revealingly melancholic reinterpretation of his own ‘Please Read The Letter’ – there really isn’t a dud among the thirteen songs here. You don’t have to be a fan of the country, blues or folk genres to appreciate the heartbreaking brilliance of this inspired collaboration. Raising Sand is easily one of the best albums of 2007.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Aztec Camera ‎High Land, Hard Rain Reissue

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Some performers never make a bigger splash than with their first record, a situation that the Ramones and De La Soul know all too well. If that's the case, though, said musicians had better make sure that debut is a doozy. Aztec Camera, or more specifically, Roddy Frame, falls squarely into this scenario, because while he has doggedly plugged away ever since with a series of what are, at times, not bad releases, High Land, Hard Rain remains the lovely touchstone of Frame's career. Very much the contemporaries of such well-scrubbed Scottish guitar pop confectionaries as Orange Juice, but with the best gumption and star quality of them all, Aztec Camera led off the album with "Oblivious," a mini-masterpiece of acoustic guitar hooks, lightly funky rhythms, and swooning backing vocals. If nothing tops that on High Land, Hard Rain, most of the remaining songs come very close, while they also carefully avoid coming across like a series of general sound-alikes. Frame's wry way around words of love (as well as his slightly nasal singing) drew comparisons to Elvis Costello, but Frame sounds far less burdened by expectations and more freely fun. References from Keats to Joe Strummer crop up (not to mention an inspired steal from Iggy's "Lust for Life" on "Queen's Tattoos"), but never overwhelm Frame's ruminations on romance, which are both sweet and sour. Musically, his capable band backs him with gusto, from the solo-into-full-band showstopper "The Bugle Sounds Again" to the heart-stopping guitar work on "Lost Outside the Tunnel." Whether listeners want to investigate further from here is up to them, but High Land, Hard Rain itself is a flat-out must-have.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Cosmic Rough Riders ‎Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine

Cosmic Rough RidersEnjoy The Melodic Sunshine

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Every time you want to dismiss this Scottish quintet as harmless, winsome fluff, they disarm you with depth of feeling and substance. This LP is well titled: there's a real sunniness to these folks that's completely unforced. It's so surprisingly welcome. When so much of rock tries to beat you into submission, you find yourself playing Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine nearly everyday. Like some throwback California sun 'n' surf morning that never existed, the glistening harmonies, '60s light-pop touches, and over-earnest but well-mannered, tender lyrics send the cynic in you fleeing in disbelief that you'd fall for this. But fall you do. Mind, it starts slow, if OK. The opening "Brothers Gather Round" and "The Gun Isn't Loaded" are more Gordon Lightfoot than pretty Byrds and the more pastoral Teenage Fanclub, and the next few cuts only start to warm up for the nuggets down the road. Beginning with the gushing verses of "Revolution (In the Summertime)," the second two-thirds begins to soar on its own momentum. In particular, "You've Got Me" is as lithesome and sweet a love song as you've heard in eons, so sincere and heartfelt it beckons to your more valiant impulses. Likewise, "Melanie" draws you into the melodrama, cursing the JFK customs agents that sent the singer back, when his longed-for is here. Even when they interject a tiny note of callousness in "Sometime" -- fending off hints of marriage with a thoughtless "let's live for today" -- they redeem it by promising "Sometime/I might change my mind/But 'til I do/I'll be right here with you" -- set to a tune so breezy and grabbing, it's made for singing along. One is equally seduced by the pristine pangs of "Have You Heard the News Today," wherein a '60s bridge like "I really didn't like her style/And then I looked in her eyes" is placed within a diving riff and descending chord melody that's a knockout. This bunch has the tunes, they have the delicate appreciation for all that is small wonder in the bright light of one's stare, and a pleasant air that's bound to stop you dead.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Heavenly ‎Operation Heavenly

HeavenlyOperation Heavenly

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Heavenly's last album finds them working with a more rock-oriented sound that hasn't been heard since the mid-'80s, when its key members were in "shambling" pioneers Talulah Gosh. While Operation Heavenly may not impress those who aren't already indie-pop fans, it still stands as a solid conclusion to a great career; bouncy gems like "Ben Sherman," "Fat Lenny," and a cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Nous Ne Somme Pas Des Anges" combine new wave lightheartedness, a hint of edgy indie-rock, and Heavenly's knack for writing sweet and perfect melodies. The band might have been moving away from the cloying cuteness of their previous albums, but they retained their energy and their unparalleled skill at writing catchy, ironic pop songs

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Flatmates ‎Love And Death (The Flatmates 86-89)

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The Flatmates were one of the best groups to come out of the oft-maligned C-86 movement in the U.K. Led by the tough but tender vocals of Deb Haynes and a noisy guitar-led attack, they were a pop group first and foremost, sounding like a near-perfect blend of the Shangri-Las and the Ramones. This collection of their finest songs released during their short lifespan is a compelling argument that the Flatmates were one of the best guitar pop bands of the era. The disc is made up of the best songs from the band's five EPs and compilation appearances as well as a handful of unreleased tracks that were demos recorded in search of a major-label deal. That deal never materialized and the band imploded in 1989, having gained some popularity but never reaching the big time. This collection won't change that, but it does firmly cement the Flatmates' status as leaders of the indie pack.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ride Going Blank Again 20th Anniversary Edition

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Difficult to believe as it may be, just 25 years ago Ride found themselves sitting pretty in the top tens of both the UK singles and albums chart. While not the most commercially unfriendly band of the day by any stretch of the imagination, their achievements still raised a few eyebrows back then, not to mention a hail of celebratory cheers up and down the land from the indie and underground fraternity. After all, it isn't every day that a guitar heavy mantra clocking in at eight minutes gatecrashes a top ten containing such gems as The Pasadenas and Curtis Stigers that particular week. Entering the charts as the second highest new entry in the lofty position of number nine just six places behind Michael Jackson's 'Remember The Time' - indeed The Jesus & Mary Chain's 'Reverence' also cracked the final ten that week one place below - 'Leave Them All Behind' has arguably become Ride's signature piece. The moment they left the shoegaze tag behind once and for all. Eighteen months earlier, the band had released their debut long player, Nowhere, to a fanfare of universal acclaim. Even today still heralded as one of the most inspired records of its generation, most bands would have been daunted at the prospect of following such a near perfect artifact as this. But then Ride never were a band that rested on their laurels. Despite Rob Newman's occasionally humorous send-up sketch on The Mary Whitehouse Experience, their focus and determination could never be faulted. So, less than a year after Nowhere's release, work had already begun on its successor. Whereas Nowhere was borne out of a shared love of My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The House Of Love, Going Blank Again would see a more diverse range of influences enter the melting pot. Recorded towards the back end of 1991 with Alan Moulder, whose previous credits had included the Glider and Tremelo EPs for My Bloody Valentine and the Mary Chain's Automatic long player, Going Blank Again was unleashed in March the following year with both critics and consumers alike falling head over heels for its box of delights. Comprising ten songs in total, it's a beguiling affair for those like myself previously turned onto Ride's effluent charm by those flawless first four EPs and the innocent beauty cum maelstrom of Nowhere. And yet also compelling, not least in the way every single piece offers something new on each subsequent listen. Take the aforementioned 'Leave Them All Behind' for example, already a firm favourite due to Andy Bell and Mark Gardener's harmonising incandescently over guitars that resemble successive tidal waves crashing against the shore. However, it's the often understated rhythm section of Steve Queralt and Loz Colbert that really come to the fore here, driving the song along at its widescreen core, occasionally traversing into dub territories before Gardener and Bell declare "I don't care about the truth!" in the coda. The term masterpiece is bandied about far too easily nowadays but for eight glorious minutes or so in 1992, this was as close as the UK independent scene ever got to creating its own 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. And so it continues throughout the record. 'Twisterella' arguably represents Ride's finest three minutes from a pop perspective (although it could be said of the early singles 'Chelsea Girl' and 'Like A Daydream'), while 'Not Fazed' sees the Oxford four-piece reliving their wildest Marquee Moon fantasies. 'Chrome Waves' meanwhile samples Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy', its string segment and laidback aura owing more to Bristol's burgeoning trip hop collective than the Home Counties so-called scene that celebrates itself Ride were allegedly spawned from. Duelling guitars - check out Bell's mesmeric solo in the final third - and a melody that accentuates yet pre-dates Britpop by a good two years characterises 'Mouse Trap', another stark diversion from what had previously been regarded as the accepted norm with Ride. Indeed it's only on 'Time Of Her Time', situated at Going Blank Again's halfway mark, that Ride come close to the reverb heavy overload of their debut. Influenced by Terry Bickers of The House Of Love while not sounding a million miles away from his 'Destroy The Heart' opus, its place here perhaps a final sign-off to Nowhere's dense soundscapes. Another sample, this time from Bruce Robinson's 1987 adaptation of 'Withnail & I', introduces 'Cool Your Boots', a reflective, and somewhat sprawling opus that serves as 'Leave Them All Behind''s slightly paralytic younger sibling. 'Making Judy Smile' also doffs its cap towards Britpop, albeit the original Sixties era that started the ball rolling. It's on the dreamy, dub heavy, two-songs-in-one 'Time Machine' where Ride really come into their own. Imagine King Tubby and Kevin Shields sat at the controls while Paul Simon's recording Graceland and you're halfway there. Having already flirted with similar experiments in sound on 1991's Today Forever EP, 'Time Machine' is yet another example of a band at a creative peak they would struggle to repeat again. 'OX4' closes the record in a psychedelic swirl reminiscent of Hawkwind at their In Search Of Space finest, Gardener and Bell both managing to sound errant yet wistful in their delivery. The album was re-issued with four bonus tracks taken from the 'Leave Them All Behind' and 'Twisterella' singles in 2001, and all four remain for this twentieth anniversary edition too. While 'Going Blank Again' the song didn't make Going Blank Again the album first time round, its symphonic urgency resonates here, particular against 'Howard Hughes's more sombre nature and the plodding if partially incisive 'Stampede', possibly the weakest track of the bunch. The ten-minute instrumental 'Grasshopper' closes the audio element, at the time resembling nothing else on this earth, even though the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor would soon be churning out textured pieces of similar magnificence in their sleep. What radiates through Going Blank Again from start to finish is how the record's never dated badly. If anything, it carries the same amount of succulent vitality when first released, its contents still refreshingly relevant now as then. And then of course there's the bonus DVD, Live At Brixton. Essentially it's a greatest hits set recorded on 27th March 1992 and originally released in VHS format later that same year. It captures Ride at their diligent, if unspectacular best. Highlights from their first four EPs - check out the double whammy of 'Unfamiliar' and 'Like A Daydream' early on in the set - congeal with choice picks from Nowhere (the title track, 'Vapour Trail' and 'Dreams Burn Down' standing out emphatically) and the majority of Going Blank Again, the complicated arrangement of 'Time Machine' unsurprisingly omitted from the live set. As an added incentive to purchase what is already a must-own record anyway, the twentieth anniversary edition of Going Blank Again is an essential addition to anyone's collection. So what are you waiting for..?

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Paul Weller ‎Stanley Road Deluxe Edition

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With Stanley Road Paul Weller has managed to prove to his fans and his critics that he is still an important musician even in his solo days. He hasn’t just written 12 good songs, instead, he’s written one great album. A factor in any great album is the overall feel that perpetuates each song, making them all feel as though they deserve their place and complimenting the songs that come before and after them. A mostly guitar driven album, Weller fuses good solos and riffs with his usual effective lyrics, often ending a song with a long instrumental that gently ushers in the next song, which gladly and competently carries the album along. However, there is the occasional song that primarily uses the piano evoking another great feel. Though these songs are quite different from the guitar based ones, they seem to come at just the right points in the album so that, not only are they a nice change of direction, but also they effortlessly fit in. To truly appreciate this fine album start at the beginning and just let it play on to the end. It far outweighs the sum of its parts, and as these parts are so good, you’re in for a great journey.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Edwyn Collins I'm Not Following You

Edwyn Collins I'm Not Following You

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Having found himself back in the commercial limelight with Gorgeous George, Collins followed it up with the equally -- possibly even more -- delightful I'm Not Following You. Trademark wit blended with passion intact and with key sideplayers drummer Paul Cook and bassist Clare Kenny helping out among many others -- including a wonderfully scabrous vocal cameo by Mark E. Smith on the very disco "Seventies Night" -- Collins tries all sorts of different things and more often than not comes up with the goods. "The Magic Piper (Of Love)" was the understandable lead single, catchy and with more than a little bite to it, drawing from finger-snapping hep-lounge Vegas sources and his own fun lyrics: "My girlfriend she got blotto/Half cut in Santa's grotto/It turns out he's a dirty old man." Add to that some just right flute and a clever brass sample that suddenly turns into an orchestrated sample from the Velvet Underground, and the man still has it. It's one of many joys throughout, with Collins showing a musical heterodoxy that would probably stupefy most other bands or acts. "Seventies Night," for example, is followed up by the sweet orchestration and quick acoustic fingerpicking of "No One Waved Goodbye," a regretful look at a relationship in pieces. There's full-on feedback and pounding drums, there's sly, compressed production touching quirky keyboards and Euro/cabaret arrangements, and even the self-explanatory Hammond-tinged "Country Rock." The hint of wistful nostalgia is often matched by the lyrics, with asides like "I'm going back to my old school/Cause to tell you the truth/All those songs of my youth/Move this old fool." Not many musicians so readily and easily allow for the hints of the passage of time. Leave it to Collins to find a number of ways to do just that.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Soundgarden ‎Superunknown Super Deluxe Edition

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Superunknown may be easily regarded as Soundgarden’s most commercial album, if only for the fact that it is the band’s most successful, achieving a certification of five times platinum. However, Superunknown is not a sell out record for the band, nor is it devoid of Soundgarden’s signature style or even a relinquishing of said style in favor of the sounds of their brethren in the “Grunge” subgenre of music—a subgenre Soundgarden never actually fit into or exemplified. In fact, while Superunknown may not feature Soundgarden’s best songs, it is arguably the band’s best all around album, with consistently great songs throughout, including those that were packaged as singles to propel Superunknown to super stardom. Part of this is because the songs themselves are fascinatingly complex and cerebral and hardly fit the mold of what most people would consider singles these days, or ever. Most, if not all, of the singles from the album feature dark themes that might cause even Robert Smith of the Cure to suggest that singer-songwriter Chris Cornell try Prozac.“The Day I Tried to Live” and “Fell on Black Days” are two of the album’s biggest hits and deal with depressing failure and crushing defeat, all set to murky song textures that beckon the ear to listen. The album’s mega hit, “Black Hole Sun”, features a surreal dreamscape with lyrics that aren’t quite universally accessible. The remaining two singles, “Spoonman” and “My Wave”, feature unconventional instruments and abnormal instrument tuning. And those were just the singles. Imagine the songs that weren’t chosen for their commercial potential. The 20th Anniversary release could stand as something of a greatest hits compilation in its own right for all of the rarities it contains. The live tracks that dominate the second disc do not merely showcase Superunknown, but also versions of songs from Badmotorfinger and Ultramega OK. Soundgarden have proven their concert chops over and over again, going way back to their 1990 home video (and rare accompanying EP) Louder Than Live. The live tracks here are no exception. The real treasure trove of Superunknown’s re-release however, is found in the vast amount of alternate takes scattered all over discs two through four. When “Fell on Black Days” was released as a single, a video was made, as were videos for the other four singles. However, this was not the band merely lip synching to the album version of the song, but performing it live for producer Brendan O’Brien. That raw and fascinating version is included here, but stands as only one of many examples of alternate takes. Disc two begins with an alternate mix of “The Day I Tried to Live” and continues into the alternate Steve Fisk remix of “Spoonman”. Cut songs and b-sides like “Exit Stonehenge”, “Kyle Petty, Son of Richard” and “Birth Ritual” (which was released on the Singles soundtrack) help to round out the rare side of this soundscape, with oddities like “Jerry Garcia’s Finger” and “Ghostmotorfinger” all pointing toward the fact that this is not your usual “expanded edition” packed with repeats. This is a good thing, of course, because with so many alternate versions, remixes, rehearsals, live recordings and demos, this collection could seem like an exercise in sameness (there are no less than four individual renditions of “Fell on Black Days” and “The Day I Tried to Live” each). Fascinatingly, Superunknown’s 20th anniversary edition never quite falls into this sad trap. The arrangement of the songs on these four discs—plus the Blu-ray, which is a high definition copy of the first disc—is done in such a way as to showcase the band’s talents while separating individual songs from their alternate versions. Further, this arrangement and the professionalism of the band combine to show exactly why there are so many versions of each tune: because Soundgarden is never content to release the song until it is ready. “Black Days III” is a dark and harsh version of its better-known sister song, but sounds like it might have fit somewhere on Screaming Life, the band’s first EP. Conversely, the (original) Steve Fisk remix of “Spoonman” separates itself from the single version by actually including samples from the aforementioned Soundgarden dance song “Fopp”. While it is true that some of the song versions are very similar to their final studio product, such as “Kickstand”, the versions are great to listen to for fans, especially because they don’t appear adjacent to each other on the discs. And then, of course, there are the mess-around tracks like “The Date I Tried to Leave”, which features Cornell’s pained description of a night out with a girl. It doesn’t go well. It is hard to say that the “rehearsal” tracks will be accessible to many more than hardcore Soundgarden fans or musicians who can relate to the start-stop and voiceover style of pushing through a song and trying to get it right, but then again, it’s hard to imagine many outside-of-hardcore fans of the band forking over the €80-plus it costs to buy this collection. Those that have the money and the interest should definitely do so, however. The overall experience is magnificent, even when listened to from start to finish, straight through. Is there room for a sprawling re-release this huge with this many repeated tracks? As Cornell wrote in “Fell on Black Days”, so appropriately, “Don’t you lock up something that you wanted to see fly.” The Superunknown 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition is worth every second of its very long run time.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Teenage Fanclub ‎Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub

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For one brief, shining moment in late 1991 and early 1992, Teenage Fanclub looked unstoppable. The Scottish band’s second album, Bandwagonesque—a flawless combination of alternative rock feedback and gorgeous, wistful melodies—came out to ecstatic reviews, the album was getting airplay on college radio in North America, and in a wonderfully bold move, Spin magazine named the album their 1991 album of the year, edging out Nirvana’s Nevermind. But then grunge broke, and everyone forgot about this unassuming band and their great little album. It was all Nirvana all the time, as American audiences chose Nirvana’s brilliant, slickly-produced teen rebellion over Teenage Fanclub’s equally brilliant, slickly-produced pop rock. Even Spin backpedaled, embarrassing itself by openly questioning their decision to go with Bandwagonesque instead of the much more popular Nevermind. Now, twelve years later, tracks from Nevermind are played to death on classic rock radio, to the point where it would be nice to go a day without hearing the opening chords to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and Teenage Fanclub have faded from the mainstream, maintaining a small but loyal fanbase on this continent. However, Bandwagonesque has aged gracefully over the years, and it still sounds as fresh as it did when we all first bought it way back when. There are many people who have not bought a Teenage Fanclub album since 1992, and the band’s new career retrospective Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds: A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub is the perfect place for people to start catching up. Spanning six albums over thirteen years, as far as guitar pop compilations go, this is as good as it gets, as you see the band metamorphose from the dissonant feedback-laced sounds of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, to Neil Young-style rock, to a straight-up Big Star imitation, to a lovely latter-day sound, reminiscent of the Byrds and Badfinger. With three highly talented singer-songwriters (guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, as well as bassist Gerard Love), the band has amassed a wealth of material that would qualify for such a compilation, and with this CD, they do their best to please their fans, cramming in 21 songs, clocking in at nearly 80 minutes Their 1990 debut album, A Catholic Education, is given only a passing nod with the inclusion of “Everything Flows”, with its muddy melody, buried under loud, raw, Neil Young-meets-My Bloody Valentine guitar riffs. Bandwagonesque boasts three selections on this CD, though several more cuts could have easily been included. The most essential songs from that album are here, though, in the form of “What You Do to Me”, Love’s wonderful single “Star Sign”, and most importantly, the classic “The Concept”, arguably their greatest song ever. Opening with a blast of feedback that sounds just as slick and contrived as anything on Nevermind, the mellifluous chords that follow shock the listener, Blake’s opening lines showing this song is more than just angry, noisy rock, as he sings tenderly about a girl with questionable taste in music: “She wears denim wherever she goes / Says she’s gone to get some records by the Status Quo”. One of the most beautiful rock songs to come out of the Nineties, it’s five and a half minutes of pure bliss, comprised of a three-minute melody that rivals the pop genius of Big Star’s “September Girls”, and a stunning, two-minute coda that boasts some of the most heartbreaking harmonies you’ll ever hear. Its epic combination of desperate, raw emotion (“I didn’t want to hurt you”) and ethereal beauty makes this a kind of college rock version of “Layla”, and it still makes your spine tingle today. 1993’s Thirteen (the title an obvious tribute to Big Star) received a less than enthusiastic response from critics and fans, and indeed was a more inconsistent album, and two of its better songs are included: “Hang On”, which goes back to the rumbling guitars of their debut album, and the terrific powerpop of “Radio”. Their 1995 album Grand Prix, though practically ignored by the public, was a fine return to form, and is regarded by many as being their best album. It’s obvious the band thinks so, too, as five of its tracks are on this compilation. Blake’s pretty “Mellow Doubt” hints at the more acoustic slant the band would take in the future, while McGinley’s “About You” and Love’s brilliant “Sparky’s Dream” both have incredible, catchy Byrds-like harmony vocals. Meanwhile, both “Don’t Look Back” and the aptly-titled “Neil Jung” utilize some great, Crazy Horse style guitar work. The four songs from 1997’s criminally underrated Songs From Northern Britain will be real revelations to those who have yet to hear that album. Gone are the loud guitars, as pure pop songcraft becomes the band’s sole focus. The lilting “Ain’t That Enough” has a wonderful Crosby Stills and Nash vibe, “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From” and “I Don’t Want Control of You” sound like Gram Parsons outtakes from the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, while “Planets” sticks to the reliable Big Star formula. The Howdy! album from 2000 is one of the weakest in the band’s career, but songs like “Dumb Dumb Dumb” and “I Need Direction” show that the album had its share of sublime moments. As is always the case with a best-of compilation, no one tracklisting will ever please all fans, and Teenage Fanclub devotees will undoubtedly have something to grumble about: three new tracks are included, and the omission of their great 1990 song “God Knows it’s True”, or overlooked Bandwagonesque gems like “Alcoholiday” and “December” in favor of the new material will likely raise a few eyebrows, but one new track truly deserves to be there. Norman Blake’s “Did I Say” is shockingly good, two and a half wondrous minutes of the best Badfinger imitation that you’ll ever hear, proof that the band still has what has made them great for so long. This album might stop just shy of perfect, but it’s still essential listening, perfect for those who are new to the band, or for those who have just forgotten about them recently. It’s 4,766 seconds of musical brilliance.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Bjork Debut Japan

Bjork Debut

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“Rock and Roll is so passé, so yesterday. Pop music is more important than art”, said Bjork on the release of “Debut” in 1993. Undoubtedly her view was provocative, but for all the quirky, cute innocence she outwardly portrayed there was, and still is a knowing determination to make music that has an expressive purpose that binds both experimentalism and popular musical culture seamlessly. She would insist that “Debut” was merely a stepping stone to greater things, an opportunity to develop her skills as a solo artist and establish a style and content distinctly different to that of The Sugarcubes. Her modest views belie the value of this collection, and for many fans this remains her greatest achievement, showcasing an unerring ability to successfully marry a vast array of styles including pop, dance, electronic, house, jazz and trip-hop. The glue that holds such ambitious intentions is Bjork’s skilful song writing, mainly themed around a joyous celebration of love, and of course her unique vocal style which swoops effortlessly through octaves somewhere between a screaming banshee, a distant melodious mantra from an uncharted heaven and a young child, fresh and untainted by the ills of this world. “Debut” owes much to the cast list of contributors, all cleverly selected by Bjork. Soul II Soul’s Nellee Hooper brings the polished dance rhythms and co writing credits for five of the songs. Veteran jazz musician Corky Hale adds a beautifully understated Harp accompaniment to the Van Heusen/Burke penned classic, Like Someone In Love. The gentle bossa nova rhythms of “Aeroplane” and the starkly mysterious “Anchor Song” are both enlivened by jazz saxophonist Oliver Lake. The album would host a staggering four hit singles (five if one includes the tagged on David Arnold producedPlay Dead), helped in no small part by some of the most innovative promotional videos ever seen. Of the singles,Human Behaviour stands out as one of Bjork’s most memorable recordings. The slowed down four to the floor house rhythm with bass drums beating out a jungle call overlaid with a vocal track that dynamically displays the singer’s range as she takes the perspective of an animal studying the human emotion.Big Time Sensuality andViolently Happy are far more than disposable dance numbers, as the singer adds a rare warmth to the mechanized rhythms, taking the songs way beyond the dancefloor.Venus As A Boy is the sweetest of odd love songs, combining a chilled reggae pace with a keyboard/vibraphone melody that skips around Bjork’s vocal line with the simple whimsy of a child’s rhyme. The heartfelt yearning of Come To Me is supported by a serenely spacious arrangement that includes an exotic eastern backing with added tabla and sub continental string effects. Bjork would distance herself from the success of “Debut”, almost dismissively stating "It's hard to judge yourself but I don't think [the early albums are] my best. Debut was the album that went the highest up there in terms of what is 'Bjork music'. But I think that the persona I created, which was entirely accidental, is better captured on the later albums." Without appearing confrontational, this album is as important, dynamic and enjoyable as any of her later recordings. Few female artists have produced albums as challenging as Bjork and this sets the agenda.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Police ‎Message In A Box (The Complete Recordings)

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Despite their legendary status, the Police only released five albums during their brief reign from 1978-1983. In addition, the trio had amassed a healthy amount of both studio and live B-sides, plus songs that only appeared on soundtracks. For the 1993 four-CD box set Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, every single song the Police ever recorded is included. All the tracks were digitally remastered for the project, sounding superior to the original CD versions of the single albums. Also included is a 68-page booklet that includes an interesting (and often humorous) biography, a time line, and notes from all three bandmembers regarding the rarities that appear for the first time on compact disc here. But of course, the real charm of the box set is the music -- album tracks ("Hole in My Life," "It's Alright for You," "Driven to Tears"), hits ("Message in a Bottle," "Can't Stand Losing You," "Spirits in the Material World"), and rarities ("Fallout," a live version of "Next to You") are all timeless classics. While the set is highly recommended to newcomers just discovering the wonders of the Police, longtime fans should consider replacing their tinny-sounding single CDs with the definitive Message in a Box. After all, it contains a total of 24 tracks unavailable (for the most part) anywhere else.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sugar File Under Easy Listening Deluxe Edition

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When Husker Du fell apart at the seams Bob Mould – just one half of that band’s songwriting magic – released two very good solo albums. And then it was straight into Sugar, a power-trio that sat somewhere in the middle of R.E.M. and Nirvana. Mould’s gift for immediacy in a song never gets distracted by the buzz of the riff – and his hard-working ethic saw three albums in three years. You could argue that File Under: Easy Listening, the band’s swansong – wasn’t quite up there with Beaster and Copper Blue. But still this album has so much to offer. Originally released in 1994 here it is represented as a double disc with accompanying DVD. The original 10-track album is added to with the six B-sides, the second disc features an 18-track live concert from November, 1994, titled The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes and the DVD collects promo videos for Your Favourite Thing, Believe What You’re Saying and Gee Angel. There are MTV appearances too and a special pairing of Mould with Lou Barlow from the show 120 Minutes. But back to the album, perfect indie-pop that still beguiles, Panama City Motel and Can’t Help You Anymore slowed down from Husker’s fury to suggest that in an alternative (pardon the pun) universe Sugar would have been hit-makers.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

INXS ‎Shine Like It Does The Anthology 1979-1997

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From the vantage of 2001, the year Rhino released the double-disc retrospective Shine Like It Does: The Anthology (1979-1997), it's a little hard to believe that the Australian sextet really rivaled U2 for popularity in 1987/1988, when Kick worked its way to multi-platinum global success. At the time, they belonged next to the likes of U2 and R.E.M., two post-punk legends that worked their way into the mainstream because they were a quintessential college rock band of the '80s, thrillingly balancing style with substance. This, of course, means that they can still sound tied to the times, but that's leavened by their heritage as an Australian rock band -- which means no matter how stylish they got, they could still rock really, really hard. Unfortunately, at the height of their popularity, they made records that camouflaged their raw talents with synthesized bass and drums, which is what rock bands did in the late '80s. And, throughout their career, INXS did tend to favor the sounds of the time, whether it was the angular new wave of Shabooh Shoobah, the evocative Listen Like Thieves, the Stonesy funk of Kick, or the alt-rock explorations of Welcome to Wherever You Are. This can make Shine Like It Does sound a bit like a music travelogue of its time, especially because its 42 songs do have their fair share of songs that seem like filler, but what stands out when the collection is finished is how damn good INXS was when it all clicked. That could mean such new wave classics as "The One Thing," "Don't Change," or "Original Sin," the college rock staples of "Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)" and "Listen Like Thieves," or such mainstream breakthroughs as "What You Need," "Need You Tonight," "Devil Inside," "New Sensation," "Never Tear Us Apart," "Suicide Blonde," and "Disappear." And it didn't stop there, either, because such latter-day songs as "Heaven Sent," "Not Enough Time," "Beautiful Girl" and "Elegantly Wasted" may not have been big hits, but they did hold their own against those hits. All these are here, along with some rarities, album tracks, and quasi-rarities, such as the Jimmy Barnes duet "Good Times" from The Lost Boys soundtrack and a number of remixes and single edits, giving this a reason to spread out over two discs.

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.
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