Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Belle & Sebastian ‎The Boy With The Arab Strap

Belle & SebastianThe Boy With The Arab Strap

Get It At Discogs
Belle & Sebastian quietly built a dedicated following after the release of their second album, If You're Feeling Sinister, as word of mouth spread from indie kids to record collectors to store clerks to critics. By the end of 1997, the Scottish septet had developed a following every bit as passionate as the Smiths did at their peak, which is only appropriate since leader Stuart Murdoch is as wittily literate as Morrissey. If You're Feeling Sinister proved this as did the three excellent EPs that followed, increasing expectations for The Boy With the Arab Strap. Even if the album doesn't match the peerless If You're Feeling Sinister or break new ground for Belle & Sebastian, it's not a sophomore slump. From the Motown stomp of "Dirty Dream Number Two" to the Paul Simon shuffle of the title track, there is more musical texture on Boy than Sinister, but much of this was already explored on the EPs, which means Arab Strap essentially consolidates the group's talents. Murdoch recedes from the spotlight on occasion, letting Steve Jackson deliver two music-biz spiels and giving Isobel Campbell space to shine with the lilting "Is It Wicked Not to Care?" All three songs are highlights, but Murdoch's songs still attract the most attention. His vicious wit, often overlooked in favor of his poetic narratives, surfaces on the title track, while "It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career" summarizes his effortless gift for elegant melancholia. Such small, precious gems are what Belle & Sebastian are all about, and The Boy With the Arab Strap offers another round of timeless, endlessly fascinating folk-pop treasures.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Various XFM Great Xpectations Live

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Great Xpectations Live documents a benefit concert for London's XFM radio station which took place in Finsbury Park in June of 1993. The sets of Belly, the Frank and Walters, Kingmaker, Carter USM, and Blur's Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon are highlighted, as well as show stealers the Cure ("Just Like Heaven" and a blistering "Distintegration") and Catherine Wheel (furious renditions of "I Want to Touch You" and "Chrome"). The sound quality of the performances are high-quality, and the tracks are edited together in a seamless listen

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Mark E. Smith 1957-2018 R.I.P.

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After the dark morass of Bend Sinister, the sound of 1988's Frenz Experiment comes as a bit of a shock. The arrangements are spare and broken down to the essentials, with the distorted guitars brought down low and Wolstencroft's drums high in the mix. Marcia Schofield had also joined the band to add keyboards. With most of the songs credited only to Smith himself, this could be seen as a solo album of sorts, or an indication of some rift within the group -- it certainly doesn't translate into the music. For the first time too, his vocals are loud and clear, though certainly not comprehensible; "Bremen Nacht" hints at some sort of run in with a ghost in Germany, "Athlete Cured," with its Spinal Tap-borrowed riff, tells of a "German athletic star" made ill from unusual circumstances -- the narrative turns strange, then funny until wandering off, a classic Smith tactic. Their cover of the Kinks' "Victoria" marked the Fall's first entry into the British charts, but also fit in with Smith's continuing explorations of Britain's history and how it translates into issues of class identity. The CD contains their other two singles from this time -- "Hit the North" and a cover of R. Dean Taylor's "There's a Ghost in My House," which the group makes their own -- plus several B-sides

Various ‎104.9 An XFM Compilation Album

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Before they made shareholders nervous and got sold to Capital Radio Group, London's XFM released a quasi-benefit CD compilation in hopes to raise money and awareness that would grant the burgeoning station its first official radio license. This translated to various exclusive tracks, altered versions, and live takes from many bands considered just on the outer edges of the existing frenzy of Brit-pop. The Cure turn up with a paisley cover of David Bowie's "Young Americans," U2 barely stumbles out of their Zooropa daze to phone in a dirty hip-hop B-side remix of "Numb," and the then-ubiquitous Oasis chews the limbs off of their competitors with a wonderfully spiteful explosion of their live rendition of "Married With Children

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Various ‎12"/80s/2


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A second volume of 12"/'80s was released only a few months after the first, which proved to be a success -- as much as a various-artists catalog release with a big ad push can be a success, at least. This set is nearly as extensive (one less track spread across three discs), but it's relatively thin in quality of content. It falls short of the first volume due to a few too many (justly) forgotten acts and mixes that are extremely inferior compared to the original versions. Remixes from the latter half of the decade -- this set is heavier on them -- often incorporate elements that disassociate themselves from the originals, and that's to no good effect. The tricks tend to make the tracks sound a lot less fresh and strictly of their time, especially when the originals themselves weren't all that hot to begin with. None of this makes the set a total waste; there's still plenty of good material to keep you on your feet. You just have to do a little more sifting and plucking. The highlights include Heaven 17's "Penthouse and Pavement," the Associates' "Party Fears Two," Style Council's "Long Hot Summer," Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love," Pigbag's "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag," the Human League's "Sound of the Crowd," and Altered Images' "Don't Talk to Me About Love."

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Various ‎12"/80s


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A relatively populist extension of Universal U.K.'s 2002-released The Sound of the Crowd, 12"/'80s -- issued by Family Recordings, a catalog wing of Universal U.K. -- compiles extended and remixed versions of singles released throughout the '80s, with a definite preference toward the early half of the decade. Unlike the state of the remix throughout the '90s and early 2000s (singles were often remixed several times over for potential crossover, or for no good reason at all), remixes as they are heard here are more functional, made strictly with the intent to impact the clubs. Even though several tracks have popped up on other compilations or album reissues heavy with bonus tracks, the box is a potential feast for new wave fans -- especially those who remember hearing the tracks while on dancefloors. The selections are generally smart: Japan's "Quiet Life," ABC's "Tears Are Not Enough," Simple Minds' "Promised You a Miracle," Scritti Politti's "Wood Beez," Propaganda's "Mabuse," and the Cure's "A Forest" (ironically a minute shorter than the version heard on the band's Seventeen Seconds) are just some of the notables

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Various ‎100 Hits Alternative

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While 100 Hits: Alternative plays a little fast and loose with the meanings of the terms "alternative" and "hits," more often than not it ends up working in the listener's favor. This five-disc set reaches back to '70s punk and post-punk with tracks from The Stranglers and Public Image Ltd. and makes stops along the way for songs from the college rock and Brit-pop of the '90s before winding up at the electro-rock hodgepodge of the 2000s. And while songs such as Radiohead's "Karma Police" might not have been chart-topping singles, they certainly define alternative rock. While this collection is far from comprehensive, and a few too many tracks from the same artists make it even less so, it still has an eclectic enough mix of one-hit wonders and tried-and-true artists to please anyone partial to these sounds.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Various ‎100 Hits Punk & New Wave

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Don’t be duped by the totally no frills packaging; Demon Music Group’s 100 Hits: Punk & New Wave is a first-rate budget package collecting a bit of essential and a whole lot of obscure. The title alone is priceless. Were there even 100 punk and new wave hits during the ‘70s and ‘80s? Not likely. So the compilers aren’t required to assemble five discs of material anyone should expect to be definitive. Yes, there are beloved warhorses from The Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, and XTC. And certainly no one with even a passing interest in this kind of music should be without full-length L.P. by those artists. The real value of this set is the odd treasures by Department S, Fad Gadget, D.A.F., Modern Eon, Leyton Buzzards, The Records, The Flys, Honey Bane, and many others.Because this set covers such a wide swath of sub-genres, the compilers arranged the individual discs fairly thoughtfully. There are few jarring stylistic shifts. The Human League isn’t sandwich between, say, The Saints and The Fun Boy Three. Disc one is the most eclectic, providing an overview of each subgenre to come and parading out most of the best known tracks (“God Save the Queen”! “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)””! “Hanging on the Telephone”! “Whip It”!). Disc two is mostly devoted to synthy, dancey new wave. Disc three is cheekily split between the set’s lightest and heaviest numbers. Disc four spotlights power pop and ska. Disc five is wall-to-wall punk.
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