Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Morcheeba Big Calm


Morcheeba Big Calm

Get It At Discogs

 It's amazing how just a few years differentiate innovation from imitation. As soon as Portishead made "trip-hop" a part of pop-music parlance, sneaky slow-beated neophytes began to sprout up like weeds, unable to resist the lure of the cool new cash cow. Morcheeba initially seemed like one of those pale copycat usurpers, but listening to the band's 1996 debut Who Can You Trust? made you quickly realize that it's the real deal. In fact, in some ways, Morcheeba is superior to Portishead: Where Geoff Barrow and Beth Gibbons create bloodless, gothic soundtracks, Morcheeba (brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey and singer Skye Edwards) approaches its music from an acoustic standpoint, utilizing samplers and turntables as embellishment, but primarily building upon a bed of live instrumentation. In this way, Morcheeba isn't worlds apart from the silky soul of Sade; it's just hipped up for contemporary consumption. The group's new Big Calm is even more song-oriented than its debut. "Shoulder Holster" uses sitar and Indian percussion to great effect, bolstering an already sublime hook, while "Blindfold" explores the darker side of Morcheeba's quiet storm. "Friction" is a nice take on reggae that refuses to be pigeonholed as such, and "Over & Over"—a subdued folk song far more reminiscent of Nick Drake than Sneaker Pimps—even abandons beats entirely. All these songs reveal Morcheeba's impressive versatility, stressing songwriting over DJing, and thus ensuring its continued creative success beyond passing fads

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Orbital 2Orbital


Orbital 2Orbital

Get It At Discogs

One of the first dance acts that fully embraced the concept of the traditional studio album, head-mounted torch-wearing brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, aka Orbital, were instrumental in the success of the early-'90s rave scene thanks to their intelligent blend of ambient techno, industrial electro, and inventive sampling. Five years after announcing their split, the Hartnolls took a break from their various solo projects to re-form in time for a headlining slot at the Big Chill Festival and the release of 20, their third greatest-hits collection following Work 1989-2002 and 2005's Halcyon. Timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of their debut single, "Chime," the two-disc, 20-track collection is a much more extensive and lengthy retrospective than its predecessors, clocking in at a remarkably generous nearly three-hour running time thanks to several ten-plus-minute pulsating groundbreaking classics. All of their seven LPs are covered, from 1991's self-titled debut to 2004's swan song Blue Album, with both live performances and remixes from the likes of Hervé and Tom Middleton thrown into the mix alongside original single and radio edits such as the ethereal progressive trance of final hit "One Perfect Sunrise," the skittering "Are We Here," which features an early appearance from Alison Goldfrapp, and the mystical "Funny Break (One Is Enough)," which proves that Orbital are capable of creating infectious melodies in addition to their trademark knob-twiddling. Predating the "cut-and-paste" formula of the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy by a good couple of years, there's unsurprisingly a veritable treasure trove of intriguing and completely random samples waiting to be discovered throughout the compilation. There are snatches of Afrika Bambaataa's "Timezone" and Butthole Surfers' "Sweat Loaf" on their joint biggest hit, "Satan," Opus III's "It's a Fine Day" on their huge club anthem "Halcyon," Scott Walker's rendition of Jacques Brel's "Next" on the tribal acid house of "The Naked and the Dead," and even '80s cheesy pop duo Dollar on the stylophone-led "Style," all of which create the feel of a particularly schizophrenic but ultimately enjoyable iPod playlist. While most of their 14 U.K. Top 40 singles are included, with such an extensive back catalog there are bound to be a few notable omissions. For some reason, their impressive body of film music, which has seen them score soundtracks for Event Horizon and Octane and contribute tracks to The Beach and The Saint, the latter of which provided their joint biggest hit, is completely ignored. And for a band with such an esteemed live reputation, it's just as puzzling that there are only two such performances, none of which showcase their renowned improvisational skills, while their legendary 1994 slot at Glastonbury may have spawned its own recent album, but at least one track from its set wouldn't have gone amiss. However, 20 is undoubtedly the most comprehensive Orbital collection to date, and although its monster running time might deter some casual fans, it's a valiant attempt at balancing their more familiar and immediate hit singles with their more experimental and challenging epics.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Ocean Colour Scene Anthology


Ocean Colour Scene Anthology

Get It At Discogs

Often referred to as "Englands finest Indie band", this triple-disc set is an interesting journey through Ocean Colour Scene's output. In roughly chronological order it marks the changing styles and moods of this accomplished four-piece from Birmingham. You could certainly argue that OCS have not received the recognition they deserve. Their fans would say that they consistently outshone their indie contemporaries Blur and Oasis. The first clutch of tracks on the Anthology are from their eponymous debut album and are largely conventional, unexciting and uninspiring Brit-rock. The album was recorded three times with three different producers before it was released in early 1992, and I imagine that the sparks of genius were efficiently flattened in the process. It's a shame to start the collection like this as it might not encourage listeners to persevere and miss out on the gems that follow. The material taken from their second album Moseley Shoals is altogether more interesting and more developed. This includes the deep down R&B "Riverboat Song", the tune that was played to death on Channel 4's 'TFI Friday'. "The Day We Caught The Train" is one of those quintessentially English pop tunes, in the mould of Paul Weller or The Small Faces. An absolute joy to listen to, this really is Ocean Colour Scene at their confident and swaggering best. "Hundred Mile High City" and "Travellers Tune", taken from their third album, Marchin' Already, are catchy tunes inspired by early 70s rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. But for all their good time rock 'n' roll sounds, some of the songs here are just a bit close to power-ballad cheesiness for my liking. The depths are plunged with "It's a Beautiful Thing", the final track on Marchin' Already, which sounds like a mid-80s overblown theme tune to a Hollywood blockbuster. The songs that follow were originally released in 1999 on One For The Modern and have a more mellow rootsy 60s vibe. "So Low", "July" and "I Am The News" feel more mature but less exciting than their earlier material. The mood turns more poppy and mainstream with tracks taken from Mechanical Wonder released in 2001. Even though their solid musicianship and strong songwriting skills come through, it feels a bit dull and uninspired, though never hard on the ear. There is the odd exception, however, like the excellent "Falling To The Floor" which evokes their earlier hard rocking style, but the anthology limps to a rather damp conclusion. Ocean Colour Scene are a classic indie band who continue to produce accomplished music. You may find it more satisfying to listen to their early albums rather than this anthology. But if you want to take the long road this release still makes for an interesting journey.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Dodgy Ace A's + Killer B's



Get It At Discogs

Dodgy were never considered to be one of the more important bands in the Brit-pop movement; rather they more often played the part of jesters to the more critically and commercially acclaimed bands who rode on the wave of the movement during the peak of its popularity. It is no surprise, then, that lead singer Nigel Clark left the group in mid-1998 when the popularity of Brit-pop had officially hit an all-time low. With the release of Ace A's and Killer B's, a 18 track greatest hits and B-sides retrospective, the band effectively closed the book on their first incarnation and also opened the doors for the future. The disc collects nearly all of Dodgy's finest moments from their first three albums and 19 singles onto a single disc featuring one new single "Every Single Day." It seems pointless to be so nostalgic over a band that was so short-lived and released so little material, but what is contained on Ace A's and Killer B's is nothing less than first-rate Brit-pop. From the sloppy, electrified "In a Room" to the tribal beats on "The Elephant," there's enough here to please any fan or non-fan. The inclusion of several B-sides and the one new track makes it essential for collectors as well. The only true flaws are that a few singles are substituted by lackluster album material ("Grassman," "Ain't No Longer Asking") and that Dodgy will never make music like this again

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Echobelly On


Echobelly On

Get It At Discogs

Gaining a different bassist and having longtime studio hound B.J. Cole in on some guest slide guitar didn't appreciably alter the Echobelly approach much -- the post-glam/punk feeling of the poppy music still predominates and Madan still claims the sharp and sly frontwoman role with fire. If nothing on On reaches the total heights of "I Can't Imagine the World Without Me," it still possesses a few fine moments of note, otherwise generally killing time in its own fashion well enough. Johansson's guitar playing and Madan's singing and lyrics still inevitably call the Smiths shades to the forefront, no matter what. It's something they seem comfortable with at this point, though, and the rest of the band jointly adds a touch more fuzz and sludge in contrast, which makes a nice combination. Touches like the singsong sass on "Go Away," which suits the sentiment of the lyrics to a T, while Johansson usually comes up with one killer riff or part per song that elevates what would be okay tunes just that little bit higher. Cole's own contributions, like the great electric slide wail on "Something Hot in a Cold Country," don't hurt either. Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie's production remains up to the general level of that noted duo's other work: loud, cutting, and sounding great. "King of the Kerb," an album standout and a fine single from the band, benefits not merely from the strange, nagging lead guitar melody from Johansson but said production, with a rich sound in the instrumental lead-in and a well-mixed chorus. Madan's wittiest moment probably comes with "Pantyhose and Roses," a cutting portrayal of sexual objectification and fantasy, while her most heartfelt is the passionate "Nobody Like You," a fun and desire-filled celebration of a loved one.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Blur The Great Escape Special Edition



Get It At Discogs

In the simplest terms, The Great Escape is the flip side of Parklife. Where Blur's breakthrough album was a celebration of the working class, drawing on British pop from the '60s and reaching through the '80s, The Great Escape concentrates on the suburbs, featuring a cast of characters all trying to cope with the numbing pressures of modern life. Consequently, it's darker than Parklife, even if the melancholia is hidden underneath the crisp production and catchy melodies. Even the bright, infectious numbers on The Great Escape have gloomy subtexts, whether it's the disillusioned millionaire of "Country House" and the sycophant of "Charmless Man" or the bleak loneliness of "Globe Alone" and "Entertain Me." Naturally, the slower numbers are even more despairing, with the acoustic "Best Days," the lush, sweeping strings of "The Universal," and the stark, moving electronic ballad "Yuko & Hiro" ranking as the most affecting work Blur have ever recorded. However, none of this makes The Great Escape a burden or a difficult album. The music bristles with invention throughout, as Blur delve deeper into experimentation with synthesizers, horns, and strings; guitarist Graham Coxon twists out unusual chords and lead lines, and Damon Albarn spits out unexpected lyrical couplets filled with wit and venomous intelligence in each song. But Blur's most remarkable accomplishment is that they can reference the past -- the Scott Walker homage of "The Universal," the Terry Hall/Fun Boy Three cop on "Top Man," the skittish, XTC-flavored pop of "It Could Be You," and Albarn's devotion to Ray Davies -- while still moving forward, creating a vibrant, invigorating record. [EMI's deluxe 2012 double-disc expansion of The Great Escape contains the 1995 album on the first disc and a host of B-sides and rarities on the second. Among Blur's British Trilogy, The Great Escape often gets slighted but this era generated the band's greatest B-sides, likely due to the confluence of the band being in its commercial prime and the industry's dictate to release multi-part CD singles for every single pulled from the record. And so we have "One Born Every Minute," "The Ultranol," and "No Monsters in Me," outtakes from The Great Escape that could have fit easily within the record itself ("Ultranol" itself is the sunny flip of "The Universal"). There are a couple of alternates -- a remix of "Entertain Me," a French version of "To the End" -- along with a suite of songs culled from their triumphant 1995 gig at Mile End. And then there are five flips that illustrate how not all was well beneath the glided surface: "The Man Who Left Himself," "Tame," "Ludwig," "The Horrors," "A Song," and "St. Louis" are woozy, unnerving returns to Barrett-styled psychedelia and tentative stabs at lo-fi that point the way to the sounds of 1997's Blur.]

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Foo Fighters The Colour And The Shape (10th Anniversary Special Edition)



Get It At Discogs

Taking a cue from the old Blondie marketing slogan, the sophomore effort from Dave Grohl’s post-Nirvana band was their “The Foo Fighters is a band” project -- well, at least it was intended that way, but Grohl pushed aside drummer William Goldsmith during the recording and played on the entire record. And who could blame him? When you’re the greatest drummer in rock, it’s hard to sit aside for someone else, no matter how good your intentions, and Grohl’s drumming does give the Foos muscle underneath their glossy exterior. That slickness arrives via producer Gil Norton, hired based on his work with the Pixies, but he manages to give The Colour and the Shape almost too sleek a sheen, something that comes as a shock after the raggedness of the group’s debut. Even the glossy final mix of Nevermind has nothing on the unapologetic arena rock of The Colour and the Shape -- it’s all polished thunder, rock & roll that’s about precision not abandon. Some may miss that raw aggression of Grohl’s earlier work, but he’s such a strong craftsman and musician that such exactness also suits him, highlighting his sense of melody and melodrama, elements abundantly in display on the album’s two biggest hits, the brooding midtempo rockers “My Hero” and “Everlong.” Elsewhere, the Foos grind out three-chord rockers with an aplomb that almost disguises just how slick Norton’s production is, but everything here, from the powerful rush of the band to the big hooks and sleek surface, wound up defining the sound of post-grunge modern rock, and it remains as perhaps the best example of its kind. [Legacy’s tenth anniversary edition of The Colour and the Shape was expanded by six bonus tracks, adding a clutch of non-LP B-sides, the highlight of which is a version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.”]

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Cracker Kerosene Hat


Cracker Kerosene Hat

Get It At Discogs

I still can’t believe there was a time in radio where you could actually be sick of hearing Cracker. The then-inescapable tunes were “Get Off This” and “Low,” both from their 1993 sophomore release Kerosene Hat. Cracker enjoyed minor success with “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” the snarling, infectious single off their self-titled debut album, but Kerosene Hat was able to capitalize on the “anything that sounds remotely alternative is good” radio days of the early 90s. Truth be told, David Lowery deserved some of the monetary rewards from the alternative rock explosion of the 90s. Camper Van Beethoven, the band Lowery was in before Cracker, was one of the more influential acts of the late 80s. While Cracker may not have been as revolutionary as Camper Van Beethoven, they were quirky enough to defy categorization. Kerosene Hat  is the sound of a band throwing anything it can to the studio walls and hoping something sticks. The thing is, most of what Cracker threw in Kerosene Hat stuck. “Low,” the leadoff track, has a riff that you can’t get out of your head and a chorus that’s just as catchy: “Bein’ with you girl / It’s like being low / hey hey hey it’s like being low.” Right after that song, it’s anything goes. Optimistic half-slacker, half-motivational speeches “Get Off This” do-si-do with country-influenced tracks (way before the alt-country craze took off). And to close the album (at least, according to the liner notes), an amazing cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Loser.” However, “Loser” isn’t the final track on the album. Kerosene Hat was one of the first major albums to take full advantage of the ‘hidden track’ function in CDs -– ballooning the CD’s length to 99 songs (most of them after track 15 utter silence) and putting three songs on as “hidden tracks.” Arguably the most beloved hidden track is the six-minute-plus ode to bohemian listlessness “Eurotrash Girl.” The song details one of the worst weekends you could ever have in a foreign country: having your car broken into, getting ripped off by a junkie, getting a case of the crabs, calling your folks for money only to have them hang up on you; but somehow, the chorus of “Yeah, I’ll search the world over for my angel in black” still leaves you hopeful.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...