Saturday, 11 May 2019

Felt The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories



Get It At Discogs
After establishing their sparse, dramatic sound with two albums and a handful of singles, Felt exploded into brilliance on their third album, 1984's The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories. Working with producer John Leckie for the first time, the band made a purposeful leap into the world of hi-fi recording: the arrangements are full and layered, Lawrence's vocals pop with confidence and vigor, and Felt have a limber swing to them that they'd never exhibited before. As usual, the record was split between Maurice Deebank's intricate instrumentals and Lawrence's songs, but for the first time Deebank's guitar explorations and Lawrence's tightly wound inner journeys sound like the work of two different visionaries instead of a united front. To that end, the instrumentals are limited to only three this time. Lawrence's songs are too good to be shunted aside; almost every track here could be considered one of his best. The hooks are undeniable, the melodies are crystalline, Lawrence's vocals have jumped about five steps ahead of where they were and his words have taken on deeper meanings and feelings, and Deebank's guitarwork is perfectly integrated into the jangling whole. Felt hinted at being able to make music as immediate and catchy as "Spanish House" and "Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow"; they came close to recording songs as achingly pretty as "Vasco da Gama" and "Crystal Ball"; but this is where it all comes together and they deliver their first masterpiece. Songs like "Dismantled King Is Off the Throne" and "Roman Litter" rank with the best poppy post-punk of the early '80s; they have all the emotional power of the Smiths, all the guitar overload of the Church, all the drama of Echo & the Bunnymen, and more than enough elevated songcraft and laser-sharp vision to make them sound totally unique. The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories may not have the cachet or reputation of albums by the "big-name" bands of the era, but it has the songs and that's what counts the most. This is Lawrence and Felt at their absolute classic best, not to be overlooked or missed for any reason.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Go-Betweens Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express



Get It At Discogs
Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express was the beginning of the Go-Betweens' crossover into more elegant and refined pop territory. "Robert Forster's endearingly fey persona, equal parts Bryan Ferry and gangly bookstore clerk, reaches full flower on the Go-Betweens' fourth album, which tempers the angularity and occasional claustrophobia of the band's previous work with a new airiness and nervous romanticism. The lighter sound can be partly attributed to the growing influence of co-leader Grant McLennan, whose wistful "Cattle and Cane" and "Bachelor Kisses" lent grace to the Go-Betweens' sometimes stilted early records... Liberty Belle is by no means free of the old Go-Betweens' edge (the brooding "Twin Layers of Lightning" is proof of that), but it is the pervading warmth and rueful humor of this release that make it so accessible and such a delight." Obviously, Bernard MacMahon and his Lo-Max Records label (and Jet Set in the United States) took that to heart when plotting out the reissue of the Go-Betweens' last three original albums, this one, Tallulah, and 16 Lovers Lane. Like the others, Liberty Belle is offered in a deluxe slipcase edition which contains two artfully remastered CDs (by Bill Inglot and Dave Schultz), a booklet with a load of photos, complete lyrics and sessions notes and a personal and humorous liner essay by Andrew Mueller. The album as originally released is presented on disc one. Added to its tag end are videos for "Spring Rain," and "Head Full of Steam," the two big singles from the set. American audiences will be suitably pleased with these since they aren't available anywhere else. Disc two hosts 11 bonus cuts. The first surprise is a spanking new version of "Don't Let Him Come Back." It was recorded and mixed in July of 1985, three months before the rest of the album was recorded. This one stands in sharp contrast to early versions of "The Wrong Road" and "Bow Down," also recorded at the same session, in that this one boasts a slightly different arrangement than the officially issued version. The bonus CD also sports the single version of "Head Full of Steam," and a radio session of "Apology Accepted." The rest of the tracks are, fantastically, unreleased and rare cuts that either didn't make the finished album or were recorded for other purposes or never used. These include a live cover of "I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door," which was recorded at the Boston Arms, and Liberty Belle cast-offs like the beautiful "The Life at Hand," as well as "Little Joe," and "Reunion Dinner." In all, this is a brilliant package, presenting a final, definitive picture of the Go-Betweens at an important creative juncture that ultimately shifted their aesthetic approach to both recording and writing.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

The Cars Heartbeat City


The Cars Heartbeat City

Get It At Discogs
Coming off the less-than-classic Shake It Up, the Cars decided again to change things up, this time moving from their home studio in Boston to London to record with Mutt Lange. The producer was coming off a string of sleek modern hits, most recently Def Leppard's Pyromania, and the Cars put themselves in Lange's capable and demanding hands. They spent six months in the studio painstakingly putting the album together, sometimes spending days getting the right bass sound or vocal take. The bandmembers were rarely in the room at the same time and instead of using live drums on the record, Lange and David Robinson put together drum tracks using samples of Robinson's playing. This sounds a bit like the recipe for a airless, stale album, but much like Pyromania, Heartbeat City is a gleaming pop masterpiece. The producer's golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the '80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later. It's a near-total reboot of the Cars' sound, giving them a thoroughly modern upgrade while still retaining enough of the DNA from their early hits to keep it a Cars album. Songs like "You Might Think" and "Magic" have the power chords and chugging rhythms, "It's Not the Night" has the dramatic emotion, and "Looking for Love" has some chirpy new wave in the verses, but most of the album takes the band to new places. "Hello Again" is arena-sized modern rock with some very Def Lep backing vocals -- something that pops up on almost every song -- and "Drive" is a timelessly romantic ballad that perfects the MOR sound that the previous album hinted at. The title track is moody soft pop with smooth synth pads and a crooning vocal by Ocasek, "Stranger Eyes" is basically a mash-up of Def Lep and the Cars with the addition of a few wonderfully corny synth sound effects, and "It's Not the Night" is pure AOR balladry that sounds like it could have been on Foreigner 4, another record Lange produced. Overall, Heartbeat City is a masterful example of how a band can reinvent itself without losing what made it great in the first place. Credit Lange's production savvy, Ocasek's songwriting genius, or the band's dedication to adding just what each song needed; when you combine them all it makes for brilliant pop and one of the landmark albums of the era.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Elvis Costello And The Attractions Armed Forces


Elvis Costello And The Attractions Armed Forces

Get It At Discogs
After releasing and touring the intense This Year's Model, Elvis Costello quickly returned to the studio with the Attractions to record his third album, Armed Forces. In contrast to the stripped-down pop and rock of his first two albums, Armed Forces boasted a detailed and textured pop production, but it was hardly lavish. However, the more spacious arrangements -- complete with ringing pianos, echoing reverb, layered guitars, and harmonies -- accent Costello's melodies, making the record more accessible than his first two albums. Perversely, while the sound of Costello's music was becoming more open and welcoming, his songs became more insular and paranoid, even though he cloaked his emotions well. Many of the songs on Armed Forces use politics as a metaphor for personal relationships, particularly fascism, which explains its working title, Emotional Fascism. Occasionally, the lyrics are forced, but the music never is -- the album demonstrates the depth of Costello's compositional talents and how he can move from the hook-laden pop of "Accidents Will Happen" to the paranoid "Goon Squad" with ease. Some of the songs, like the light reggae of "Two Little Hitlers" and the impassioned "Party Girl," build on his strengths, while others like the layered "Oliver's Army" take Costello into new territories. It's a dense but accessible pop record and ranks as his third masterpiece in a row.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Ministry Twitch


Ministry Twitch

Get It At Discogs
The name Ministry brings to mind images of big, dumb guitars and arena rock sensibility. But before they created their influential third album, The Land of Rape and Honey, there was Twitch. And this album probably owes more to Front 242 than anything. The only thing remotely resembling their later music is the use of psychotic sampling that Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker will always be known for. A good example is "Like You," the first track on the album. Other differences include Patty Jourgensen singing on the song "The Angel" and Al Jourgensen actually trying to sound unaggravated at times. It's interesting though repetitive at times ("Crash and Burn"), and if you care to listen to Jourgensen's rants, he really does have something to say. "Isle of Man" tells the story of the arrival of Columbus and how the persecution of the Indians will be revisited on the offenders in time. Make no mistake: this sounds nothing like any of Ministry's other albums; listeners may hear how they became what they did.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Front 242 Front By Front


Front 242 Front By Front 


Get It At Discogs
Official Version was fantastic, but this album was something else again. Easily one of the greatest industrial albums ever made, bar none, Front by Front hit like a bombshell on its listeners and influenced more bands and songs than can be counted. Even the album art design, with everything from a rough pixel computer font cover to harsh video stills and blunt slogans, is a work of art, perfectly in sync with the electric mania inside (unfortunately, in the late '90s the entire Front 242 catalog was reissued with "high-tech" graphics). From the rampaging start of the album, "Until Death (Us Do Part)," not a single note, sample, guttural syllable, or headache-inducing drum hit is out of place. The album's most deservedly famous track can make an equally good case for being the definite EBM song: "Headhunter." A portrait of capitalism as mercenary terrorism with a wickedly compelling mock orchestral bass providing lead melody, "Headhunter" deserves notice not merely for the pounding music but the astonishing vocal arrangements. Richard 23 and Jean-Luc de Meyer serve up the memorable step-by-step chorus in perfect balance, the latter delivering each step like an order from on high while 23's singing adds on even more frenetic energy. The overall feeling of militaristic, blunt efficiency encompasses music, artwork, and lyrics -- thus utterly appropriate song titles like "Circling Overland" and "First In/First Out." "In Rhythmus Bleiben" stands out as a particularly fine song in a series of them, the melange of computer squeals and glitches, building percussion, chaotic vocal samples, and a downright anthemic chorus resulting in one killer tune. The 1992 reissue does the original CD one better by also including another mix of "Headhunter," as well as the entire Never Stop EP.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Ian Dury Reasons To Be Cheerful - The Best Of



Get It At Discogs
The late Ian Dury knew for sure that it was a question of the right moment at the right time in the right place, because tomorrow might never arrive. And one day, he was right; it didn't. But his work ethic and never-give-up attitude left the world with some truly memorable music that is as much naughty fun as one can reasonably bear. There are 36 tracks, and all of the faves are here, of course. Who would want an Ian Dury comp without "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll," or "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick," or "Sweet Gene Vincent?" So yeah, those are all here, and if those were the only singles the cat released, they would have assured his place in the pantheon of all that happened in the U.K. in the late '70s and early '80s. But what about the other stuff, like the James Brown meets Tom Tom Club meet Kurtis Blow mutation of the title track, with its sweet soul-jazz middle eight? Or, what about the driving piano funkiness of "Wake Up and Make Love With Love Me," with its hilarious dirty boasting and truly infectious greasy groove? And then there's the provocative ska meets reggae and R&B of "I Want to Be Straight," with its proclamation of wanting to get out of the dumps and into a place of stature in the welfare state. There is humor in this music in bushels. But all of that humor points to the heart of a cultural malaise, and at what crap it is to be lonely and brokenhearted and broke in an age of abundance while questioning what that abundance is. All of it backed by a band that never got credit for how tight and versatile it was, how it provoked Dury onto greater lyrical plateaus just to match those killer grooves. It's a shame the guy's gone, man, a real shame. What's worse is that he didn't get nearly the credit he was owed during his lifetime -- he had a better sense of humor and was more musically interesting that James White by a country mile, and had a better band than anybody. Hopefully, anybody who was remotely interested in Dury will pick this little slab of memory up and be astonished. Never has the sound of real rebellion been so friendly or so necessary.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Dexy`s Midnight Runners Let's Make This Precious The Best Of


Dexy`s Midnight Runners Let's Make This Precious The Best Of

Get It At Discogs
Let's Make This Precious: The Best of Dexys Midnight Runners collects 18 tracks from the genre-hopping creators of "Come on Eileen," including the hits (in the U.K., at least) "Celtic Soul Brothers (More Please Thank You)," "Geno," "Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache," and "Show Me." All of the best tracks here have been cherry-picked from the group's 1980 debut Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and 1982 smash Too-Rye-Ay, which makes a strong case for searching out the excellent 2002 reissues of each, but as samplers go, it's hard to beat this set of infectious folk-kissed, blue-eyed soul-infused new wave jams.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...