Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Doves The Best Of Doves (The Places Between)



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For a brief period, Doves ruled the roost when it came to 21st century Brit-pop. Their music connected the dots between OK Computer-era Radiohead, Coldplay, and U2, a welcome combination for those unwilling to forgive U2's Pop or follow Radiohead down their Kid A rabbit hole. As a result, Lost Souls and The Last Broadcast both went platinum in the U.K., spawning no less than six Top 40 singles in the process. Those two albums dominate The Places Between, a greatest-hits compilation that focuses on the band’s glory days. To their credit, Doves have yet to release a dud of a record -- even the band’s lowest-selling album, Kingdom of Rust, went gold -- and they’ve collected their strongest material here, meaning the records that didn’t sell as well are still represented by strong, melodic tracks. “Andalucia,” the compilation’s only new track, holds its own against 14 established hits, a sign that Doves aren’t quite done with their reign of the U.K. charts

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Primal Scream Screamadelica


Primal Scream Screamadelica

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There's no overestimating the importance of Screamadelica, the record that brought acid house, techno, and rave culture crashing into the British mainstream -- an impact that rivaled that of Nirvana's Nevermind, the other 1991 release that changed rock. Prior to Screamadelica, Primal Scream were Stonesy classic rock revivalists with a penchant for Detroit rock. They retained those fascinations on Screamadelica -- one listen to the Jimmy Miller-produced, Stephen Stills-rip "Movin' on Up" proves that -- but they burst everything wide open here, turning rock inside out by marrying it to a gleeful rainbow of modern dance textures. This is such a brilliant, gutsy innovative record, so unlike anything the Scream did before, that it's little wonder that there's been much debate behind who is actually responsible for its grooves, especially since Andrew Weatherall is credited with production with eight of the tracks, and it's clearly in line with his work. Even if Primal Scream took credit for Weatherall's endeavors, that doesn't erase the fact that they shepherded this album, providing the ideas and impetus for this dubtastic, elastic, psychedelic exercise in deep house and neo-psychedelic. Like any dance music, this is tied to its era to a certain extent, but it transcends it due to its fierce imagination and how it doubles back on rock history, making the past present and vice versa. It was such a monumental step forward that Primal Scream stumbled before regaining their footing, but by that point, the innovations of Screamadelica had been absorbed by everyone from the underground to mainstream. There's little chance that this record will be as revolutionary to first-time listeners, but after its initial spin, the genius in its construction will become apparent -- and it's that attention to detail that makes Screamadelica an album that transcends its time and influence.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Black Grape It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah!



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When Happy Mondays fell apart in 1992, most observers assumed that Shaun Ryder would never recover from his numerous drug addictions. No one could have ever predicted that he would return to the top of the charts three years later, relatively fit and healthy, with a new band that fulfilled all of the promises of his old group. Black Grape is what Happy Mondays always were, only better. Leaving behind the stiff musicianship that plagued even the best Mondays records, Black Grape's debut, It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah, is a surreal, funky, profane, and perversely joyous album, overflowing with casual eclecticism and giddy humor. Working with a band that is looser and grittier than the Mondays, Ryder sounds reinvigorated, creating bizarre rhymes that tie together junk culture, drug lingo, literary references, and utter nonsense. Ryder's lyrics have always been freewheelingly impenetrable, but now he's working with Kermit, a rapper that is the equal of his skills. Even better, the music has deep grooves and catchy pop hooks that come straight out of left field. From the blaring harmonica of the triumphant "Reverend Black Grape" and the trippy sitars of "In the Name of the Father" to the seedy, rolling "Shake Your Money" and the stinging guitars of "Tramazi Parti," It's Great is filled with music that goes in unconventional directions without ever sounding forced. Not only is It's Great When You're Straight a triumphant return for Ryder and his sidekick Bez, it's the first album they have ever recorded that justifies all of the hype. [In 2016, a two-CD/one-DVD Deluxe Edition of It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah was released, including a bonus CD featuring remixes, live tracks recorded at the Brixton Academy in 1996, and the unofficial Euro '96 football song "England's Irie" with guest vocals by Joe Strummer.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness



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The Smashing Pumpkins didn't shy away from making the follow-up to the grand, intricate Siamese Dream. With Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the band turns in one of the most ambitious and indulgent albums in rock history. Lasting over two hours and featuring 28 songs, the album is certainly a challenging listen. To Billy Corgan's credit, it's a rewarding and compelling one as well. Although the artistic scope of the album is immense, the Smashing Pumpkins flourish in such an overblown setting. Corgan's songwriting has never been limited by conventional notions of what a rock band can do, even if it is clear that he draws inspiration from scores of '70s heavy metal and art rock bands. Instead of copying the sounds of his favorite records, he expands on their ideas, making the gentle piano of the title track and the sighing "1979" sit comfortably against the volcanic rush of "Jellybelly" and "Zero." In between those two extremes lies an array of musical styles, drawing from rock, pop, folk, and classical. Some of the songs don't work as well as others, but Mellon Collie never seems to drag. Occasionally they fall flat on their face, but over the entire album, the Smashing Pumpkins prove that they are one of the more creative and consistent bands of the '90s.

 

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Radiohead OK Computer Collector's Edition



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Using the textured soundscapes of The Bends as a launching pad, Radiohead delivered another startlingly accomplished set of modern guitar rock with OK Computer. The anthemic guitar heroics present on Pablo Honey and even The Bends are nowhere to be heard here. Radiohead have stripped away many of the obvious elements of guitar rock, creating music that is subtle and textured yet still has the feeling of rock & roll. Even at its most adventurous -- such as the complex, multi-segmented "Paranoid Android" -- the band is tight, melodic, and muscular, and Thom Yorke's voice effortlessly shifts from a sweet falsetto to vicious snarls. It's a thoroughly astonishing demonstration of musical virtuosity and becomes even more impressive with repeated listens, which reveal subtleties like electronica rhythms, eerie keyboards, odd time signatures, and complex syncopations. Yet all of this would simply be showmanship if the songs weren't strong in themselves, and OK Computer is filled with moody masterpieces, from the shimmering "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and the sighing "Karma Police" to the gothic crawl of "Exit Music (For a Film)." OK Computer is the album that established Radiohead as one of the most inventive and rewarding guitar rock bands of the '90s.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry The Very Best Of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry



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It might not boast the all-encompassing nature of 1994's The Singles 1982-1987, and it might not be as succinct and flawlessly selected as the same year's Generation: The Best Of, but The Very Best of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry improves upon all of the previous compilations by acknowledging 1988's Nothing Wrong and 1989's Blow, the two records the band made for RCA after making the jump from Red Rhino. Since the running order is chronological, it shows that the band indeed made subtle developments with their sound, much to the chagrin of those who felt that RLYL were sludge merchants -- nothing but Joy Division cloning, guttural howling, murky machine rhythms, and disturbingly acid-drenched guitars. No, they were much more than that, far more exciting than that description; if justice existed, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry's catalog would be just as known as Killing Joke's, not only recognized for having some wild guitar playing on par with Killing Joke's records (which are also comparable to Keith Levene's playing on PIL's debut), but also for putting an often terrific, unique spin on doom and gloom that should all but separate them from the remainder of the goth rock sect.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Kitchens Of Distinction Capsule The Best Of KOD 1988-94


Kitchens Of Distinction Capsule The Best Of KOD 1988-94

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A just and proper introduction to Kitchens of Distinction would take up enough room to fill out, oh, about four CDs. This is because, in the end, a convincing argument could be made for each album's status as the band's true best. This disc, Capsule: The Best of KOD 1988-94 -- no doubt a hair-splitting one to piece together -- does make for the second-best place to start, even though it makes the grave mistake of omitting "4 Men," a single that wrapped up all the group's strengths, and all the pain that desire can inflict, in one feverish shot. Rightfully so, the compilation touches upon each of the albums without heavily tilting the favor toward any one in particular -- three songs apiece appear from the first two albums, and five apiece are included from the last two. Excepting the popular success that was so deserved, this trio had everything: a sorcerer of a guitarist who could propel you over the clouds and then, seconds later, dunk you leagues deep into the ocean; a lively rhythm section that could emit a graceful force as well as whip up a thick, dubby underbelly; and a songwriter whose lyrics were, and still are, fit to be bound and gilded. While it's true that the Kitchens had numerous peers and a few antecedents, none of them quite approached their mix of compelling songcraft and dazzling atmospheric effects, which were never accentuated to hide instrumental shortcomings. The first 2500 copies of the set came with a second disc of B-sides and radio-session versions, several of which wouldn't be undeserving of first-disc placement -- see the alternately dreary and blissful storms of "Glittery Dust," and the anti-Thatcher "Margaret's Injection," in particular, along with the 12" (albeit inferior) version of "4 Men." In fact, you might as well see everything else while you're at it.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Lush Ciao! Best Of Lush



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In what could have been a means to deflect a slow release schedule, 4AD started rolling out compilations of some of their deep catalog bands in 2000 and 2001. Cocteau Twins were first, followed by Heidi Berry and Modern English. In early 2001, 4AD released Ciao! 1989-1996, a collection of Lush's finest moments. Evenly taking four to five songs from each of the band's three proper studio records and their early EPs compilation (Gala), Ciao is a decent summary of the band's eight-year existence, collecting most of their singles, several album cuts, and one of their better B-sides (a cover of the Gist's "Love at First Sight"). The tracks run in reverse chronology, starting with the confident, no frills, straight-ahead pop of "Ladykillers" and ending with the wispy haze of "Etheriel." Pop songs were always at the heart of Lush's songs, but the distortion, buried vocals, and general trickery gradually weathered away with each of their successive releases. So listening to Ciao uninterrupted plays like a photograph slowly going out of focus. A longtime fan's general preference might find a bone or two to pick with the selection, but that's always a hazard with a portable introduction. Those who go on to check out the band's studio albums on the strength of Ciao will be happy to discover several strong songs

 
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