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
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