Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Beck ‎Midnite Vultures



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Midnite Vultures is flourishing with a deranged sense of psychedelia that disorient the senses, while mesmerizing the mind with surrealistic melodies. Surrealism has often been defined as an artistic movement that deviates from the conscious laws of reason and convention. It is a philosophy dedicated to exploring the most obscure realms of the human imagination. Surrealism originally began as an expressionistic approach to visual art, but the ideology of imaginative indulgence transcended into other art-forms such as film and music. Beck has once been described as a composer whose music spontaneously transcends through genres, while simultaneously reinventing them. Beck's pervious albums, like Mellow Gold and Odelay!, displayed a distinctively eccentric and innovative musical style. Amalgamating different genres such as Folk, Hip-hop, Rock and Electronica to create an unusual listening experience that is directly inspired by the unconventional nature of surrealism. Beck's prior albums have constantly exposed us to his experimental tendencies, but none of those experiences even come close to the utter abnormality of Midnite Vultures. This is Beck showing absolutely no restrain, as he takes us on a metaphysical journey to the most abstract dimensions of his mind. "Nicotine & Gravy" is perhaps the essence of what Midnite Vultures is all about. The song is composed by an excessive barrage of psychedelic effects flowing along a mellow arrangement of bass and drums. But as we descend further and further into "Nicotine & Gravy", we find the song being constructed by a diverse musical landscape that arrives to an eruptive medley of kaleidoscopic sounds. Midnite Vultures introduces an eccentric style of ambient music. "Peaches & Cream" displays the typical musical approach of the album, exhibiting condensed layers of sounds comprised from the rhythmic groove of Funk music and trancing instrumental elements. As I said before, this album is flourishing with a deranged sense of psychedelia that disorient the senses, while mesmerizing the mind with surrealistic melodies. We can really see Beck's growth as a songwriter in this album. The lyrical content still contains Beck's usual delivery of nonsensical comedic witticism, but the instrumental sections demonstrate innovative orchestral techniques that we hadn't really seen in his past albums. In songs like "Hollywood Freaks" and "Get Real Paid", we find Beck returning to some of his past tendencies as he revisits his Hip-Hop and Electronic roots. We have seen Beck incorporate both electronic and sampling effects in his music before, but they were always an occasional decorative arrangement. In Midnite Vultures, electronic sequences serve to play a prominent role in the musical structure of almost every song on the album, adding a higher level of spontaneity to the music. "Milk & Honey" and "Mixed Bizness" perfectly display all of the different approaches Beck uses with electronic effects, from eruptive discharges of cosmic sounds to inducing a more melodious dancing atmosphere. In the end, Midnite Vultures proves to be highly entertaining because it's simply Beck doing what he does best- altering the norms of musical orchestration while blending several different musical elements to create a truly captivating musical experience

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thanks A Million


Since I Started This Blog In July 2014

Just Like To Say Thanks A Million For The All Visits And Comments

Thanks Again Aid00

Various ‎Retro:Active2 (Rare & Remixed)



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If you're an '80s alt-pop junkie who scours the various-artist bins for new series that take surprising turns, Hi-Bias' Retro: Active series might fit the bill since it compiles alternate and extended mixes that tend to come from the original 12" releases. A lot of the tracks in the series have been out of circulation since they were first issued, so Hi-Bias should at least be credited for not recycling the same old batch of hits and semi-hits. Notables on this, the second volume, include the extended mix of the Human League's "Human," the dance remix of Blancmange's "Don't Tell Me," the Madhouse mix of Yaz's "State Farm," and the dub mix of Tears for Fears' "Shout.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Beta Band ‎The Best Of The Beta Band Music



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The Beta Band's biggest claim to fame was that homage in High Fidelity, which speaks volumes about this sorely missed British talent. When John Cusack's character puts The Three EPs on in his record shop, his customers ears immediately prick up. 'Whats this?' they ask, 'It's good!' To which Cusack replies, smugly, 'I know'. If only everyone did... The Beta Band disbanded at the end of 2004, citing their frustration at being critically lauded but commercially ignored. They left behind a legacy of innovative and inspiring tunes, which a small but devoted legion of fans had grown to love. This Best Of does a grand job of placing the finest moments from their four albums in chronological order. There are, perhaps, one too many tracks included from last album Heroes To Zeroes, at the expense of epic live jam, "The House Song", but this is nitpicking. Thankfully, the latter does appear on disc two of this set, as the conclusion to a triumphant live set, recorded at Shepherd's Bush Empire during their final farewell tour. This release is an essential purchase, just to hear the crowd refuse to let "Dry The Rain" finish by repeatedly singing the chorus back to a bemused band.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The KLF ‎Chill Out


The KLFChill Out

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Recorded and mastered over the course of two days (and apparently recorded in one mammoth take) Chill Out is, as its name suggests, an album for the early morning rather than the night before. It’s the sound of rosy fingered dawn emerging sleepy eyed from behind the horizon, coating existence in swathes of delicious honey and drowsy outlines of amber before playfully chasing somnolent shadows across the horizon. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that a band active in a scene notorious for getting as close to god as chemically possible would make music like this; Chill Out is the ultimate come down album. Yet dismissing this as simply another early 90’s pillhead album would be the height of ignorance. You don’t need to be insufflating anything to appreciate this; the music itself is utterly sublime. Delicate waves of synths wash over percussive trains that trundle lazily through sleepy towns, punctuating brief and fragile fragments of conversation that leak out of yawning doors and slowly blinking windows. From time to time, vehement roars emanate from the open doors of a Baptist church that trembles in divine ecstasy. The KLF deserve the highest praise for painting the musical picture of places utterly alien to them, in the process creating an astounding aural soundtrack to a journey that would only ever take place on the shrouded highways of the listeners mind. This being the good ole days before Gilbert O’Sullivan decided to ruin music, samples are inserted wholesale into the mix; Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in my Soul, which places In the Ghetto over drifting hawaiian guitars, is particularly heart wrenching. Like all good sampling, the individual pieces combined are more than the sum of their parts; church choirs, impassioned preachers, the braying of animals and children - everyday sounds flickering by that somehow succeed in conjuring up intense visions of mysterious and magical places, lonely landscapes and lonelier people.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers ‎Anthology Through The Years



Tom Petty And The HeartbreakersAnthology Through The Years

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For the fan that wants more than the superb single-disc Greatest Hits yet doesn't want to delve into actual albums or the exhaustive, rarities-heavy box set Playback, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and MCA Records offered the double-disc Anthology: Through the Years in the fall of 2000. This set basically offers all the singles and album rock radio favorites, with a couple of odd selections here and there and one new song, "Surrender." There are a few omissions -- "Make It Better (Forget About Me)" isn't here, for instance -- but not enough to really be noticeable, especially since this consolidates the bulk of Petty's great songs and plays very, very well. Greatest Hits might have a slight edge to Anthology because of its conciseness, but this double-disc set illustrates that Petty's catalog was deeper than just the hits.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Charlatans ‎Forever The Singles Limited Edition



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What separates the 2006 compilation Forever: The Singles (released in the U.S. in 2007) from the 1998 Melting Pot? The simple answer: the eight years separating the two compilations and that Forever draws heavily from the four albums that came out since Melting Pot, resulting in such '90s Charlatans classics as "Just Lookin'" and "Jesus Hairdo" being left behind. In effect, if Melting Pot documents the Charlatans peak, tracing their rise from the baggy of 1990's Some Friendly to the retro-rock of the 1997 masterpiece Tellin' Stories, Forever is the story of how this quintet turned into rock & roll survivors, weathering tragedies and shifts in fashion to become a strong, reliable rock band, always dependable for solid, entertaining albums even if their singles were not as big or as memorable as "The Only One I Know," "Can't Get Out of Bed," "Just When You're Thinking Things Over," "One to Another," or "North Country Boy." Forever is a good overview of that band and is a worthwhile introduction in that regard, but Melting Pot remains a better portrait of the band at its popular and creative peak

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Marc Bolan & T.Rex 20th Century Superstar


Marc Bolan & T.Rex 20th Century Superstar

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Although Marc Bolan and T. Rex are no strangers to the best-of racks, it is a sad truth that only one previous attempt has been made to represent the singer's entire career, the Australian triple album 20th Century Boy, back in 1981. And, regardless of whether or not the compilers of this set took that package as their benchmark, the best possible compliment that one can offer 20th Century Superstar is that it doesn't simply equal its predecessor, it utterly surpasses it. Arranged chronologically across four CDs, 20th Century Superstar follows Bolan from his first-known recordings, versions of Dion's "The Road I'm On" and Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" cut under the name Toby Tyler in 1965, through to his final single, 1977's "Celebrate Summer." That's 108 tracks, with no less than 19 previously unreleased relics of Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex days, presenting the most well-rounded portrait of that era yet. The years 1967-1970 are, after all, the one part of his career to have so far evaded the wholesale archive scraping that characterizes his earlier and later (post-fame) years, but here we have three previously unheard songs, 11 alternate takes, a couple of demos, and, most important of all, a three-song session recorded with producer Joe Boyd in 1967, which is as astonishing as such a collision ought to be. Woven among these gems, of course, are all the highlights one would hope to hear, from the biggest hits to the all-time fan favorites, from BBC sessions to pseudonymous singles, and onto a couple of extra-curricular goodies -- Bolan's guest spot on David Bowie's 1969 "Prettiest Star" single paramount among them. Add a genuinely sensitive remastering job and an excellent essay by Bolan biographer Mark Paytress, and it all adds up to a presentation that renders virtually every other Bolan compilation superfluous. He may have been a 20th century superstar, but he looks fit to run well into the 21st as well

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Marc Bolan / T.Rex Greatest Hits


Marc Bolan/T.Rex Greatest Hits

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Marc Bolan fans who find this U.K. release while browsing record shelves should rejoice with a gruff Bolan-esque "Yeah!" An overabundance of T. Rex compilations has tried to capture the full span of the godfather of glam rock's career, with very few succeeding -- 20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection being the most likely choice. Greatest Hits could practically be marketed as an extended director's cut of that CD with bonus features. This 40-song set includes 17 of the songs found on The Ultimate Collection and groups them with alternate singles and B-sides from 1965 to 1977. Not only does this pairing illustrate the simple brilliance of his 15 songs that hit number one or two on the charts -- including "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," "Cosmic Dancer," "Ride a White Swan," "Children of the Revolution," "Telegram Sam," and "Jeepster" -- but it also shows that Bolan was an absolute songwriting machine, with many of his lesser-known grooves sounding just as powerful as his big hits. The one minor problem with this stellar collection is that most newcomers looking for an introduction to Bolan would probably find a few other songs from his biggest '70s albums (T. Rex, Electric Warrior, Tanx, and The Slider) more essential than some of the picks from his earlier folkie Tyrannosaurus Rex days or later pre-disco years. Regardless, this is a strong overview. "Life's a Gas" is a swaying acoustic classic worthy of any collection, and the boisterous rockers "Laser Love" and "Soul of My Suit" show where David Bowie got his inspiration for his "plastic soul" era. Considering that Bowie was both a peer and pupil of Bolan's, most notably in his Ziggy Stardust phase, this could make for a perfect shelf accompaniment to Bowie's stylistically similar anthology, Singles: 1969-1993; subsequently, no one ever quite explained the curly-headed trailblazer's cultural impact better than Bowie himself, when he spoke for the entire glam community in "All the Young Dudes" and sang "Who needs TV when I got T. Rex?" This collection sums up Bolan's discography brilliantly

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Arab Strap The Week Never Starts Round Here Deluxe Edition



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Too often in music, bands get referred to as being ‘unique’, but this Scottish duo genuinely were that most rare of things. Middleton pulled the strings musically - improving ten fold with each subsequent release yet always maintaining that mystique to the songs’ atmosphere – whilst Moffat supplied the words and tone of voice, always pitching it perfectly between humorous (but often cynical) banter and painfully honest admissions of one’s own faults. People regularly remark of bands putting themselves into their work, but within Moffat’s words lie the entire outline of his life to date. Over their career of 11 years, the band outgrew their initial miserablist mistag and became a relatively unsung national treasure for both their recorded work and live shows. And so it seems right that this, their debut album, should now be reissued forevermore with a second disc featuring their first four Peel Sessions and debut King Tut’s gig (having formerly been packaged in the Scenes of A Sexual Nature boxset). The Week Never Starts Round Here is a perfect snapshot of a Nineties indie band finding their feet. Some songs here hint at what was to come; ‘Blood’ still sounds delightful, walking a fine line between amusing and scathing ("My last lover’s playing with her new man now / It’s only three weeks we’ve been apart / They sat together and he sent her flowers / Well he can fucking keep that fickle disco tart"), whilst ‘Kate Moss’ still sounds remarkably fresh, with its opening statement of shock that someone could not find the model "pretty". Others jar a little with the rest of the band's output, but are still wholly decent indie romps when taken outside of that realm, such as the booming reverberating-snare used on the slightly eerie ‘The Clearing’ and the whimsical ‘General Plea to a Girlfriend’, complete with its whistle solo. It’s particularly interesting hearing the live renditions on the second disc alongside these studio versions, with the results sounding fuller and more rounded, even at this early stage. The Peel Sessions also yield interesting results. ‘The Smell of Outdoor Cooking’ – an early single – is fun whilst ‘Soaps’ gets an early airing before its pivotal role on their second album. Whereas ‘I Saw You’ is a wonderful example too of what it’s like meeting someone for the first time, with the words and music marrying perfectly; starting with sweet reflection, a period of nervous energy as to where you stand and ending in a mess of loved up joy and confusion, featuring such insight along the way as "I saw you twice and both times you were wearing orange / And she told you I fancied you in the toilets at The Garage". But despite the band going on to better it, both the Peel Sessions and album belong to ‘The First Big Weekend’. Even 21 years on, it sounds utterly mesmerising. The splendid live version has entirely ‘new’ lyrics detailing their journey to the BBC and Malcolm’s dour backing, bemoaning the weather, but the accolades belong to the studio recording. Building from a simple guitar line until the starring drum beat expands into a wonderful climactic indie anthem, it captured the hearts of Peel, Guinness’s advertising team, the label bosses and most music fans of the time; because it totally ‘got’ what being a twentysomething in this country was like during your downtime; nights out with your friends, some drinking out, some watching of The Simpsons, some passing interest in the opposite sex and a bit of late night cheese misuse. It’s the song that still defines the band to many, and one that certainly raised the bar of expectation surrounding the band such is it’s confidence and perfection.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

XTC ‎Fossil Fuel The XTC Singles 1977-92



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Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 is a splendid double-disc set that runs through every one of the group's 31 A-sides, from the nervy "Science Friction" to the lush, sighing "Wrapped in Grey." Between those two songs, XTC's craftsmanship grows remarkably fast -- based on the edgy pop of their new wave singles "Statue of Liberty," "This Is Pop," "Are You Receiving Me?," and "Life Begins at the Hop," it's hard to believe that they would later write the subtle, near-pastoral Beatles, Kinks, and Beach Boys pastiches of "Love on a Farmboy's Wages," "Great Fire," and "Grass." And those songs just scratch the surface of the terrific pop singles available on Fossil Fuel: "Making Plans for Nigel," "Ten Feet Tall," "Generals and Majors," "Towers of London," "Respectable Street," "Sense Working Overtime," "This World Over," "Dear God," "The Mayor of Simpleton," "King for a Day," and "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" are wonderful songs and forgotten classics. Although XTC continually made carefully constructed albums, they were a dynamite singles band, releasing songs that were tightly constructed and impossibly catchy. They never had hits, because their unabashed pop was never in fashion; plus, Andy Partridge's voice was too pinched and his lyrics frequently too cerebral. But XTC's music stands as some of the best and most influential pop of their era, and nowhere is that more evident than on Fossil Fuel.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Everything But The Girl ‎Home Movies The Best Of Everything But The Girl



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Like most Everything but the Girl compilations, 2001's Home Movies: Best of Everything but the Girl restricts itself to the duo's first decade, before they reinvented themselves as the pop face of trip-hop with 1995's "Missing." A roughly chronological sprint through Everything but the Girl's first seven albums, from 1984's Eden through 1992's Acoustic, there's no room for any more than two or three songs from any one record; while this does a handy job of tracing Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt's career path from folk-jazz indie to sophisticated and adult pop music, it also means that several worthy songs, especially from the group's early days, are missing: no "Night and Day," "When All's Well," "Riverbed Dry," "Sugar Finney," or "Oxford Street." On the other hand, the songs chosen are a balanced and representational lot, including favorites like Thorn's indelible bossa nova "Each and Every One" and the lovely, Dusty Springfield-like orchestral pop of "Come on Home." Home Movies is an excellent introduction to Everything but the Girl's early years for newcomers beguiled by later hits, but all of the group's early albums (Eden, released in a very different U.S. version as 1984's Everything but the Girl; 1985's Love Not Money; 1986's Baby, the Stars Shine Bright; and 1988's Idlewild) are well worth seeking out on their own.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Lamb ‎Best Kept Secrets The Best Of Lamb 1996-2004



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For old-schoolers, Best Kept Secrets is Louise Rhodes and Andrew Barlow's thank-you note. The U.K. electronica duo accompanies each track with personal reflections, letting longtime listeners in on some first-time knowledge. But for the considerable portion of the globe that never discovered Lamb, its 16 songs are signal flares in the darkness. From the comforting, romantic swirl of "Gabriel" (from 2001's What Sound) through the chattering beats, slurping bass, and cut-up strings of "B Line" -- what is it, hot jazz in the 23rd century? -- all the way to the outfit's relative "hit," the chilly '90s electronica boom nugget "Gorecki," Best Kept Secrets covers the Lamb bases for both the knowledgeable and the neophyte.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Skunk Anansie Stoosh Japan Album


Skunk Anansie Stoosh

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Skunk Anansie were one of those acts in the 90s that you couldn’t help but be aware of, particularly around the time of their second album, Stoosh. A punkish hard rocking quartet, they stood significantly apart from the various cookie-cutter Britpop acts of the era, with an utterly different attitude and a significantly different sound. Also, the fact that they were fronted by one of few performers of the era to possess a genuinely effortless star quality didn’t hurt either. Skin remains to this day a woman with a striking appearance and a voice that can channel a rare blend of vulnerability, soulfulness and fury. That’s not to say her bandmates were slouches, because Stoosh is all the evidence you need that they certainly weren’t, but one of the few things that Skunk Anansie did have with their female fronted contemporaries, was that the blokes tended to blend into the background somewhat, with the difference being that Skin didn’t have to be cynically marketed as a sex symbol in an attempt to shift units. Her voice alone did that. Over two decades since its release, Stoosh remains a narky, aggressive and generally angry album. Cass, Ace and Mark (how come he didn’t get a vaguely ridiculous nickname?) get chance to demonstrate that they can do subtle, but they sound most at home when the volume gets cranked up and they are allowed to match their front woman’s aggression. Skin for her part sounds like a woman possessed, yet utterly dripping with conviction. Regardless of whether you liked Skunk Anansie at their commercial peak, you can’t argue that Skin came across as one of the most genuine performers of the era. Be it “Yes It’s Fucking Political”, “She’s My Heroine” or “Pickin’ on Me”, she can provide whatever the song needs vocally and you just don’t doubt the fact that she means every word she is singing. Skunk Anansie never sound anything less than full-blooded or committed to the material. It’s an aggressive hard rock album, released at a time when very few British acts were releasing aggressive rock albums, or at least not without a huge side-order of irony. Stoosh is played with an utterly straight, uncompromising bat, and if nothing else, you have to give Skunk Anansie credit for that.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Curve ‎Cuckoo


CurveCuckoo

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The duo of Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia (with help from three others) gave us the refinement of the deeds they started before. This 1993 release garnered them the press and acclaim they deserved, and although it would be five years before their next release, they left the masses with a lasting impression. The lead-off "Missing Link" burns by with the loudest number they had done up to that point. Using the loudness as a driving force instead of an accompanying factor, it's a refreshing blast of energy. An illustration of the opposite end of the noise spectrum is "Left of Mother" with its acoustic base and Halliday's airy vocals spilling into the tracks. "Unreadable Communication" showcases a different train of thought with its electronic intro and main body, only heightened with moments of the Curve grind. These are the extremes, and Cuckoo is the crystallization of previous works. Following the blitz of "Missing Link," "Crystal" finds the band back in the mode of power through coloring and groove. The color of noise is used splendidly in the chorus, adding to the tone of the lyrics. "All Of One" leads off with Halliday's floating lyrics before plunging into a guitar driven choruses. Additional flourishes of guitar throughout add depth and teeth to the composition. The "Curve style" is used to great effect in "Turkey Crossing" with its simple bass groove and ultra-dirty guitar phrases accompanied by Halliday's seductive vocal. Lyrics like "I'm finished with you/please be finished with me" are only embellished by layered guitars adding musical weight to the lines. Flood's prowess at the board only helps "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" pound a groove into your head, only to have the salt of dirty guitar added into your wound. It's grind and melody join two things that at times seem to be in conflict, just like the objects of the title. Curve was one of the top purveyors of "shoe-gazing" pop, and Cuckoo demonstrates why. This is an essential album to the genre.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Sugarcubes ‎The Great Crossover Potential



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The Sugarcubes were one of the great cult bands of collegiate rock, not only because they had a distinctive sound, but because they were so damn weird. They sounded like nothing else in the late '80s/early '90s or anything that came before, creating an unusual hybrid of pop, dance, and the avant-garde. So rabid was their cult that some critics said they could cross over into the mainstream, yet that never really happened, despite their strong English following. However, that notion gives the title to their best-of collection, The Great Crossover Potential. The 14-track compilation proves that they could never really have crossed over, mainly because their pop sense is quirky and they're often an acquired taste. Björk, of course, wound up being a pop star with equally ambitious music, and while her talent is apparent here, it's often submerged by Einar's excruciatingly ridiculous showboating. Einar was often overbearing on the Sugarcubes albums (particularly toward the end of their career), and it is true that he's less irritating here than on the proper records, but casual fans should be aware that The Great Crossover Potential is only slightly less uneven than the actual albums, with the exception of the remarkable debut, Life's Too Good. The collection, however, remains a nice way to round up the highlights, particularly those from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! and Stick Around for Joy

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Various ‎Never Mind The Mainstream...The Best Of MTV's 120 Minutes Vol. 2



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Acting as a sampler for MTV's flagship alternative show, Never Mind the Mainstream... was the best compilation of '80s alternative music released in America at the time. Featuring powerhouse tracks by R.E.M., Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and the Violent Femmes, this album serves as the ultimate introduction to what was popular in the alternative underground at the time. Several good, underrated songs are stacked up next to the classics and do just fine on their own. New Order's "Perfect Kiss" stands surprisingly well between Joy Division's classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Depeche Mode's mega-hit "Personal Jesus." Hüsker Dü and the Jesus and Mary Chain contribute driving, powerful rock tracks; elsewhere, Ministry showcases their paranoid anger with the club hit "Stigmata.This is a fantastic album that serves as a wonderful sampler for these artists' talents.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Various Never Mind The Mainstream...The Best Of MTV's 120 Minutes Vol. 1



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Released in 1991, Rhino's MTV: Best of 120 Minutes is one of the last snapshots of college rock/alternative music just before grunge dominated, inflated, and ultimately burnt out the genre. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' version of "Higher Ground" is probably the album's hardest-rocking track -- though Sonic Youth's classic "Kool Thing" comes close -- making way for a brace of moody, quirky, but above all, poppy songs like Camper Van Beethoven's "Eye of Fatima, Pt. 1," They Might Be Giants' "Ana Ng," Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians' "Balloon Man," and World Party's "Put the Message in the Box." Alt radio staples of the era, such as the Stone Roses' "Fool's Gold," Sinéad O'Connor's "Mandinka," XTC's "Dear God," the Church's "Under the Milky Way Tonight," and Bob Mould's excellent "See a Little Light" retain their status as underground classics yet still sound fresh, aging far more gracefully than the grunge and nu-metal that supplanted them. Songs from Cocteau Twins, Julian Cope, Mission ,and Soul Asylum round out this engaging, somewhat nostalgic time capsule of a time when MTV not only played videos, but gave airtime to smart, left-of-center artists like these.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

James ‎Fresh As A Daisy The Singles



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James became an institution on the British alternative music scene during the ’80s and ’90s thanks to their catchy songwriting and intelligent lyrics. Early in their career, they were praised by the likes of Morrissey and even crashed the acid house-inspired “baggy” scene with the baggy-inspired Sit Down, a hit that helped catapult them to massive fame. Buoyed by the success of that track, however, the band became more experimental and eclectic, changing their sound and creating a unique template for success in Tim Booth’s distinct vocal style and delivery – not to mention his physical prowess in live form. Hits came in the form of the epic Sound, the euphoric Ring The Bells, the anthemic Tomorrow and Destiny Calling and the enchanting change of pace that marked the lush romanticism of Just Like Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, the band decided to split as they seemed to be going from strength to strength, citing solo ambitions as the reason to part company. A farewell tour was memorably delivered but tinged with sadness at the loss of a band that was continually willing to push their sound forward and do something different on the mainstream indie scene. That was 2001 and six years later they’ve decided to reform, hit the road and record some new material. But as a reminder of the story so far, they’ve put out another greatest hits compilation (to rival 1998’s Best Of) in the form of the double CD Fresh As A Daisy: The Singles. As its name suggests, this is all about the hits rather than the personal favourites and picks up the story of the whole career – from early take-notice offerings Folklore and If Things Were Perfect to the songs that defined their biggest successes. What’s most striking about the songs (particularly during the second CD) is just how timeless many of them are. Whereas a lot of “baggy” tracks contain a retro glow that keeps them rooted in the era, a lot of James’ work seems to transcend such boundaries. Sit Down does sound dated and was even rubbished by the band themselves as one of their least favourite recordings – but songs like Sound, Ring The Bells, Born of Frustration and the beautifully under-rated Say Something continue to sound as fresh and inspired as they were way back when… And it’s only through listening to an extensive compilation such as this that you begin to realise how many hits James delivered, from the easy sing-along value of live favourites such as Destiny Calling, Laid and Come Home to the more thoughtful moments such as She’s A Star and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up). Of the two new tracks, Who Are You? expertly combines the vocal theatrics of songs like Sound with an altogether grittier guitar sound to produce a song easily capable of appealing to both their existing following and the uninitiated, and Chameleon is a clever stop-start track that’s delivered with verve. So, whether you’re intending to buy it as a reminder of memories old, or trying to discover what the fuss is all about, or even just playing catch up, Fresh As A Daisy (clever name) is well worth a place in anyone’s record collection.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

World Party ‎Best In Show


World PartyBest In Show

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When Karl Wallinger left the Waterboys in the mid-'80s to form World Party, it only took one song to convince fans that this was no one-off side project. That track, "Ship of Fools," and 12 others populate the band's first-ever "greatest-hits" compilation, the appropriately titled Best in Show. Wallinger, a devout "Beatlemaniac," never aped a move by the Fab Four without throwing more of himself into the mix, which makes World Party's sophomore effort, Goodbye Jumbo, such a joy. Represented here by no less than seven tracks, Jumbo riffed on the new beatnik vibe of the early '90s without ever resorting to the mildly disingenuous Lenny Kravitz version of the "new summer of love." World Party may have been part-Dylan, part-Donovan with a little bit of Wings-era McCartney thrown in for good measure, but Wallinger's socially conscious brand of mysticism felt firmly rooted in the prosperous Clinton era. Cuts like "Put the Message in the Box," "Way Down Now," and "Thank You World" grooved with an easy-enough vibe to lure AAA radio listeners, but connected on a deeper level with the college crowd. 1993's Bang!, 1997's Egyptology, and 2000's Dumbing Up deserve more than the one track apiece that appear here, but to be fair, Bang!'s "Is It Like Today?," one of the group's strongest moments, was the last real radio presence Wallinger and company enjoyed. Best in Show is nothing if not concise, and while longtime fans might lament the omission of songs like "All I Gave," "Vanity Fair," and "Kingdom Come," incoming ears will perk up and seek them out for themselves.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Super Furry Animals ‎Radiator


Super Furry AnimalsRadiator

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Using the psychedelicized prog-punk of Fuzzy Logic as a foundation, Super Furry Animals move even further into left field on their second album, Radiator. As before, the group displays a gift for catchy, deceptively complex melodic hooks, but now its songwriting and arrangements are mind-bogglingly intricate and eclectic. Songs boast intertwining melodies and countermelodies, with guitars and keyboards swirling around the vocals. Similarly, the production is dense and heavy with detail, borrowing heavily from prog rock and psychedelic pop, but pieced together with the invention of techno and played with the energy of punk. It's a heady, impressive kaleidoscope of sounds, but what gives Radiator its weight is the way the sonics complement the songwriting. SFA's songs are melodic, accessible, and utterly original -- melodically, they may borrow from '60s pop, but they rearrange the clichés in fresh ways. Also, Gruff Rhys has a fondness for revolutionary politics and the bizarre that helps give Radiator its intoxicating, otherworldly atmosphere, making it one of the few late-'90s albums that sounds inventive, vibrant, and utterly contemporary.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Jesus And Mary Chain ‎21 Singles


The Jesus And Mary Chain21 Singles

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Volumes have already been written about the historical significance of the Jesus and Mary Chain. The group’s landmark debut, aptly titled Psychocandy, was the archetype for noise-pop, an album that transformed the use of distortion in indie rock with its screeching abrasion, yet managed to feature some of the catchiest melodies of the 80s. This unique blend of challenging noise and melodic pop was later adapted by hundreds of bands, with innovative groups such as My Bloody Valentine among the forerunners. Unlike the majority of its followers, though, the Jesus and Mary Chain was primarily a singles band. However groundbreaking Psychocandy was, several not-so-great songs marred the album, undermining the band’s brilliance. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s formula was not infallible; past the album’s highlights, the overwhelming use of distortion occasionally grew tiring, to the point that it seemed the same song was being played on repeat. While none of the group’s later work saw too great a departure from its original style, a look at only the bands’s singles reveals its repertoire to be more exciting than that of almost any other band within the same genre. 21 Singles presents the band at its absolute best, unhampered by repetition and unaffected by a lack of significant development because of the sheer genius of its best songs. The collection, organized chronologically, begins with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s quintessential debut single, “Upside Down”. Like all of the group’s best songs, “Upside Down” has more energy than most other bands could ever hope to produce, with wailing feedback and thumping drums marvelously accompanying Reid’s triumphant vocals as he proclaims tough-guy phrases like “Feels like I’m going mad/ best friend I’ve ever had”. Psychocandy’s singles continue in very much the same vein as “Upside Down”, especially with the brutal assault of “Never Understand”. “You Trip Me Up”, “Just Like Honey”, and “Some Candy Talking” are calmer, but use just as much distortion to hide their sweet pop nature. These first five songs are all classics, compared either to the rest of the collection or to virtually any other singles released during the mid-80s. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s follow-up to Psychocandy, Darklands, is represented excellently by its three lively singles, “April Skies”, “Happy When It Rains”, and the title track. On these, the group stripped away excess feedback and allowed for a more conventional approach to rock’n’roll. The effect of these songs’ different treatment is equally powerful, although the weaker melodies prevent the singles from attaining the same heights of those from Psychocandy. “Sidewalking” and “Blues from a Gun” are the compilation’s heaviest tracks, revealing for the first time a traditional hard rock side to the band. Here, Reid delivers some of his most convincing vocals. At least, one would think so before hearing “Head On”. Easily the highlight of the band’s career, “Head On” characterizes most of what great indie rock is supposed to be, donating four minutes of complete bliss to the collection. Incredibly riveting, the song features an utterly inspiring chorus (“Makes you wanna feel/ makes you wanna try/ makes you wanna blow the stars from the sky”) delivered with all the band’s visceral emotion. The music perfectly suits the lyrics, with the same breadth of passion present in the guitars as in Reid’s vocals. The four Honey’s Dead singles embrace much of the early 90s British music scene, using more danceable beats to good effect. The controversial “Reverence” (“I wanna die just like Jesus Christ”) juxtaposes hard-rock riffing with a drum machine to create a new sound for the band, a new way to boast both their power and their catchiness. The album’s other singles are very good as well, but unfortunately, after Honey’s Dead, there is a slight dip in quality. Stoned and Dethroned gives us two of the band’s softer numbers, the very radio-friendly “Sometimes Always”, and the simple “Come On”. Munki, the band’s final album, re-introduces a sound that had been absent since Automatic with the hard-hitting “Cracking Up” and even adds to this style with “I Love Rock’N’Roll”, which, very surprisingly, features horns. It is clear by this point that the Reids have lost some of their ability to write exceptional melodies, but these singles are still pretty good. Psychocandy may have been the Jesus and Mary Chain’s classic, but 21 Singles is undoubtedly the place to start with the band. As any singles compilation should, the collection highlights what made the Jesus and Mary Chain the fabulous band it was, capturing the best moments throughout its career without ever dwelling on them so that they become dull. In doing so, 21 Singles proves itself to be both the perfect introduction to the band and the group’s most listenable effort.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Portishead ‎Roseland NYC Live


PortisheadRoseland NYC Live

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"They're dark, they're spooky, they're emotional. Ladies and gentlemen of New York City... presenting Portishead!!" In a perfect world, that's how this live record would kick off. Of course, that's not the band's style. Rather, we hear a few seconds of the 30+ piece orchestra tuning their instruments before the eerie whistle of "Humming" sets in, orchestra right on its tail. Two minutes later, Geoff Barrow's trademark slow- motion hip-hop groove bursts in, followed by Beth Gibbons' emotive, whispery vocals. Dramatic? There's no doubt about it. This is a band that clearly takes themselves, their music, and their performances very seriously. And naturally, they went for the full effect on July 24, 1997 at New York City's Roseland Ballroom. Pitched as a "one- night only special live engagement," the show sold out almost immediately. They brought their orchestra, they brought their horn section, they brought their drama, and PNYC documents the performance beautifully. The album sees Portishead elegantly blow through 11 songs culled from their 1994 debut Dummy and Self- titled release with decidedly awesome results. The songs from Portishead are relatively straight- forward as they were performed purely as an introduction to the album which wasn't to be released for another two months at the time of this concert. The songs pulled from Dummy, on the other hand, are executed beautifully, most notably "Sour Times," which starts off gently and climaxes with Gibbons practically screaming the lyrics, her vocals altered electronically

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Underworld ‎1992-2012 The Anthology



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The departure of Darren Emerson prior to the release of 2002’s A Hundred Days Off album could’ve signaled the beginning of the end for Underworld. While his contributions were undoubtedly essential in galvanizing the group’s genre-defining techno and abstract electronica of the 90’s, Underworld continued on to fully realize its panoramic sonic capabilities in the last decade at the hands of its core duo of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde.Spanning 3 CDs, Anthology is luxurious- capturing glorious pieces from 1994’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman through 2010’s Barking album rendering the previous ‘hits’ collection, 1992-2002, obsolete in the process. CD1 covers the sacred early territory including the brooding “Mmm, Skyscraper I Love You,” the punishing “Cowgirl,” the mournful “Dirty Epic,” and “Dark and Long (Dark Train)”- the quintessential archetype for the techno genre. CD2 opens with many people’s gateway track to the band: the crushing 1996 juggernaut that is “Born Slippy.” 1999’s Beaucoup Fish album had the unenviable task of following up the Trainspotting centerpiece and is represented by “Jumbo” and the manic freight train “Moaner.” “Push Upstairs” and especially “Shudder: King of Snake” are more than deserving representations of this underrated album yet they are omitted. “Two Months Off” may be the group’s single most important track as it urgently, joyously declares with soaring harmonies and cascading, sun-drenched synths that Smith and Hyde would be just fine a duo. “To Heal” is a symphonic masterpiece which crystallizes the warmth and humanity that has pervaded Underworld’s post-Emerson works. “Scribble” is a surprising selection from the Barking album that also features the slow simmering Dubfire co-production, “Bird 1” and the irrepressible “Always Loved a Film.” CD3 is a deeper but maybe non-essential exploration of some of the band’s rarities. The highlight is the heavy, monolithic “Second Hand” which featured on the Café del Mar Volume 1 compilation. Other notable tracks include the dazzling acid workout “Why, Why, Why,” the rising jam “Parc (Live)” and spacious, meditative “Simple Peal” which were all previously only available on Japanese imports.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Portishead Dummy Japan Album


Portishead Dummy

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Portishead's album debut is a brilliant, surprisingly natural synthesis of claustrophobic spy soundtracks, dark breakbeats inspired by frontman Geoff Barrow's love of hip-hop, and a vocalist (Beth Gibbons) in the classic confessional singer/songwriter mold. Beginning with the otherworldly theremin and martial beats of "Mysterons," Dummy hits an early high with "Sour Times," a post-modern torch song driven by a Lalo Schifrin sample. The chilling atmospheres conjured by Adrian Utley's excellent guitar work and Barrow's turntables and keyboards prove the perfect foil for Gibbons, who balances sultriness and melancholia in equal measure. Occasionally reminiscent of a torchier version of Sade, Gibbons provides a clear focus for these songs, with Barrow and company behind her laying down one of the best full-length productions ever heard in the dance world. Where previous acts like Massive Attack had attracted dance heads in the main, Portishead crossed over to an American, alternative audience, connecting with the legion of angst-ridden indie fans as well. Better than any album before it, Dummy merged the pinpoint-precise productions of the dance world with pop hallmarks like great songwriting and excellent vocal performances.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Billy Bragg ‎Must I Paint You A Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg



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In 1983, Billy Bragg was a guy with a cheap electric guitar, a rough but passionate voice, and a knack for writing and singing straight from the heart whether he was discussing leftist political concerns or the mysterious interactions between men and women. The guy has a band and the political issues that have caught his attention are trickier 20 years later, but he's still enchanted and puzzled by love, and hasn't stopped writing worthwhile songs about it. Must I Paint You a Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg is a three-disc, 50-song compilation that does an admirable job of capturing the hills and valleys of Bragg's recording career, opening up with "A New England" from his debut EP, Life's a Riot With Spy vs. Spy, and closing with a cut from 2002's England, Half English. A spin through this set suggests that Bragg's best (or at least most affecting) work arrived in the early stages of his career, as disc one (which follows Bragg through Worker's Playtime) is a decidedly more solid and absorbing listen than disc two (the material from the disappointing William Bloke in particular weighs down the collection's second act), and his love songs have stood the test of time a shade better than his political material (the miners' strike may be over, but broken hearts are timeless). But there are plenty of gems to be found throughout this collection, and Must I Paint You a Picture? serves as a potent reminder that in the grand tradition of Bob Dylan, even Bragg's lesser albums contain a handful of truly memorable songs worth hearing; if this isn't the ideal Billy Bragg collection, it's an excellent introduction, a solid career overview, and a lovely reminder of how much he has to say about the heart and the mind. Initial pressings come with a ten-song bonus disc that adds several hard to find selections, including Bragg's Anglophile rewrite of "Route 66," a telling duet with the late Ted Hawkins, and a bootleg remix that merges Bragg with the Hives.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Julian Cope ‎Peggy Suicide Deluxe Edition



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Casting the ill-advised attempts at too-clean modern rock from his late-'80s days firmly aside and fulfilling the promise of Skellington and Droolian, Cope on Peggy Suicide produced his best album to date, overtopping even his Teardrop Explodes efforts. Showing a greater musical breadth and range than ever before, from funk to noise collage -- and more importantly, not sounding like a dilettante at any step of the way -- Cope and his now seasoned backing band, with drummer J.D. Hassinger in and De Harrison out, surge from strength to strength. Ostensibly conceived as a concept album regarding potential ecological and social collapse, Cope wisely seeks to set moods rather than create a straitjacketed story line. As a result, Peggy Suicide can be enjoyed both as an overall statement and as a collection of individual songs; its sequencing is excellent to boot, moving from song to song as if it was always meant to be that way. Cope's voice is a revelation -- for those not having heard the hard-to-find Skellington and Droolian, his conversational asides, bold but not full-of-itself singing, and equally tender, softer takes when the material demands it must have seemed like a complete turnaround from the restrained My Nation Underground cuts. He handles all the guitar as well, with Skinner concentrating on bass and keyboards; guest Michael "Moon-Eye" Watts does some fine fretbending as well, including an amazing performance on the awesome "Safesurfer," a lengthy meditation on AIDS and its consequences. Picking out only some highlights does the album as a whole a disservice, but besides offering up an instant catchy pop single, "Beautiful Love," Cope handles everything from the minimal moods of "Promised Land" and experimentation of "Western Front 1992 CE" to the frenetic "Hanging Out and Hung Up on the Line" and commanding "Drive, She Said." An absolute, stone-cold rock classic, full stop.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bob Mould ‎The Last Dog And Pony Show



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Just before The Last Dog and Pony Show hit the streets, Bob Mould announced that his supporting tour would be the last time he hit the road with a full electric band. From this point on, he would be challenging himself, finding different musical avenues to explore and leaving his trademark tower of guitars behind. Presumably, this also meant that The Last Dog and Pony Show would be the recorded farewell to this sound, and it is indeed an excellent consolidation of all of his musical quirks and signatures. The Last Dog and Pony Show is the work of a craftsman, not a nakedly emotional confessional like Workbook or Bob Mould. That's not to say the album is lightweight, since seriousness is one of Mould's signatures, but there is a sense of humor that hasn't been heard since Sugar, and he, overall, sounds more relaxed than he has in years. He's so relaxed, in fact, that he lets down his guard on the cheerfully ridiculous pseudo-rap "Megamanic," the only track on Show that offers a musical departure from Mould's past. The rest of the record is clearly a Mould album, from the rushing rockers to the impassioned acoustic ballads, but the craft in both the songwriting and the production guarantees that the music never sounds like a retread, even if it does sound familiar. And that's not a bad way to draw to a close the first part of his career, if Mould does indeed turn his back on his signature sound
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