Album Reviews: April 2001

David Bridie — Act Of Free Choice (Chrysalis)

Ok, so you may be asking the same question as I did when first confronted with this artists work, "who the hell?". Well ok the next step was to read the press release that accompanied and a little wiser, but, well let me share.

Daid Bridie, anative of Melbourne, Austrailia is no slack. 15 years and more a musician in such ‘influential’ underground local bands, Not Drowning, Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake (We’ve all been there at one moment or another). Now that would explain it, ‘underground’ and several thousand miles don’t exactly add up to, "Oh yeah, that David Bridie". Well put this aside and beg, borrow, or, well you get the picture, the album and let the music give all the explanations you’ll ever need. Music of firm foundations of a ‘rock’ breeding and a sound that might appeal to the open minded, maybe Talk Talk, solo Sylvian fans, with vocals that hark those of Ricky Ross (Deacon Blue). I found that when played to virtual ‘death’ in the car on numerous tedious journeys, this stood up well. And at home, with the sound filling every corner, the same story. But here relaxation, bordering ‘eyes closed snooze’ was achieved, an experience I hasten to add was not somewhere I was going behind the wheel in my car.

I like an album I can pick up, listen to and find something new every time and ‘Act Of Free Choice’ had that. Not only does it possess complex lyrical passages, that I’ll be here until Christmas (2002!) trying to figure out and still not have made a dent in my in tray. And music that utilises analogue synthesisers, a string quartet and piano played where notes are caressed delicately before slipping onto the next.

Now this will be the recognition that the artist deserves, when you come to learn that co-producer of this album is none other than Ian Caple. Still none the wiser? Well go and take a look at those old Sugarcubes, Tricky, or Tindersticks sleeve notes. But just the same let the album and its music do the persuading. 5/5 Nick James.


Various — Rough Trade Shop (25 years compilation) (Mute)

February this year marked the 25th anniversary of Rough Trade and the first shop opened by Geoff Travis in early ’76. The empire soon became just that, as the shops activities diversified and started the label that surely every ‘gen-x’er’ held a candle for in their adolescent years. Distribution followed and were all vital to the development of independent music in the years that followed.

To celebrate this event the Rough Trade Shops presented 10 days of live music. And the Mute record label has had the envious task of compiling and releasing this, the subject of my rantings, a 4 CD box-set, comprising 56 tracks that will act as a document of ‘indie music’ during this time. These tracks represent some of the most popular records sold through Rough Trade Shops since their inception. Ranging from the classic sounds of The Buzzcocks ‘Bordom’, Joy Division’s ‘Transmission, to The Birthday Party and Pixies, Smiths ‘Hand In Glove’, right up to the present day and once Levi’s featured artists’ Clinic to the sublime Lemon Jelly and their ‘In The Bath’.

Obviously every listener may not go a bunch on every passage here, but will I’m sure derive a modicum all the same from what is laid before them. This is one of those ‘got to have’ compilations that will enrich any record collection. Only one down side to this and that is it doesn’t appear to come on the vinyl form, remember where you started guys. But that said we are in the 21st Century, silver space suits are just round the corner for us all. 3/5 Nick James.


Roxette — Room Service (Chrysalis)

Another group born out of saunas and not just thoughts of more than neck massage are those guys who followed counterparts Abba onto the scene in ’89. It is now evident , 12 years on, that this cheesy ‘rock’ group have possessed the ability to stay the distance, and not just in someone else’s ‘skin’. I can still recall the groans of disbelief when their debut, ‘The Look’, hit our ears and us fans of more credible rock-music ran for cover. But look who’s laughing now, their pockets groaning with the weight of royalty cheques and their place in the annals of rock music history assured. But still I find place for a wry smile to creep across the corners of my mouth, as I sit and listen to the opening seconds here, and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ meets ‘Class Of ‘84’ Lo-fi.

On this occasion I am not the casual observer, but the critic and I can say that I hear what has kept audiences coming back for more. ‘Mr Seirra’ has now moved on, he’s got a Mondeo now, the kids are at University, but Roxette are the continuos strain to his ‘ever decreasing circles’. This is scary, as I find myself tapping along to the beat, but in essence this could BE 1989 just as easily as we sit here in the next century. Altogether dull, with the only thing on offer, time that is fast slipping away. But as discussed, this will find an audience as their bellys travel south, crows dig in and the comfortable arm chair becomes a second home. Find a life, don’t find yourself here. I’m off to make a nice flower pot of the ‘Heart’ LP that sits on my record shelf. 1/5 Nick James.


Alfie — If You Happy You Need Do Nothing (Twisted Nerve)

Nothing to do with that film starring Michael Caine in which he gets his rocks off as he sweet talks girls, young and older. Instead this is a journey into ‘accoustro’ in which a vibe that screams acoustic, colliding with something that is not. A debut album that collects the bands first three limited e.p.’s together with two brand spankers, I suppose to give it wider appeal and reaps influences from far, wide and the influentially cool. Signed to the same label as The last years flavour, Badly Drawn Boy, you won’t be surprised to discover that influences apply, especially as the group were plucked by Damon to support and back on his world tour last year. But not just this, shades of Oasis, more than an injection of Gomez and even a Harrison/Shankar stitar’esque sound features on the opening ‘Backwards’. Not exactly your ‘Whig’ out sound, but this is a very chilled album of impeccable quality. 2.5/5 Nick James.


Nash — The Chancer (Go Beat)

With a scattering of Curiosity Killed the Cat. Acid Jazz acts such as Brand New Heavies and Mother Earth. And way too much Jay Kay minus the F40 and vintage Bentley than surely is safe, the young Nash (whose name is taken from songwriter and vocalist, Russell Nash), are on a mission to bring a feel of ultimate cool to the nation. Crank up the volume and belt out sounds so liquid smooth that take them out in your car and you risk being arrested for a breach of the ‘status quo’.

Real soul, brought to audiences with influences ranging as far and wide as the likes of Curtis Mayfield, the master himself, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the story telling of Bob Dylan. An album that far exceeded any expectations I had of what was still out there to be discovered., Nash are a group of genius’s whose music will blow you away, no really, this is a study of timing, a sound that will fill every corner of your mind and apparently a live experience that exceeds even this. The title of this album is misleading though, as it would suggest that the group are there but for the grace of god, but there’s nothing slippery about this acts sound, maybe except the tongue that sits firmly in cheek. In the meantime win and a wear a Nash T-shirt with pride, in our competition this month. 4.5/5 Nick James.


Aimee Mann - Bachelor No.2 (V2)

Also subtitled "The Last Remains Of The Dodo", a number of the songs on "Bachelor No.2" have raised Mann’s profile after being featured in the hit Tom Cruise film "Magnolia".

Now I would love to give Aimee Mann a fair and unbiased review but the fact that she makes my trousers tighten quite vigorously makes that a feat quite difficult to pull off. However I will try. Listening to this album, you get the impression that Aimee Mann doesn’t really exist and that it was actually recorded by Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez all at once. Oh and the Beatles pop in occasionally to add some backing vocals.

Still, it’s all pleasantly laid back and has struck me as being one of those albums you can happily stick on in the background while you’re doing whatever chores or unworldly pleasures you may feel necessary...and just chill out.

Best track on the album in my opinion is "The Fall Of The World’s Own Optimist", written in collaboration with our very own Elvis Costello. 3.5/5 Tone E.


Neil Finn - One Nil (Parlophone)

Complete memory lapse here. I was writing up my views on this album where I was saying that it sounds like Crowded House. Then my bout of amnesia subsided and I remembered that the reason it sounds like them is because Neil Finn effectively WAS Crowded House. Forgive me, I’ve had a busy week. Still, the album opens just as though it were the latest from the aforementioned Kiwis with "The Climber".

Personally though, I prefer the louder tracks, such as "Hole In The Ice", of which there aren’t that many to be getting on with here. Some of the tracks actually sound a bit like ELO which is a bit of a surprise. Have to admit though, the only song on the album that I thought was great was "Rest Of The Day". I suppose it bears a good testimony to Neil Finn’s songwriting skills though that I would find it difficult to mark one of his albums at a score of less than three. 3.5/5 Tone E.


Rooney — On the Closed Circuit (Common culture records)

This is Rooney’s third album and is his latest installment of what life is like. This is commentary on the ordinary. This is the soundtrack to Rooney’s diaries. However, this is no post-modern kitchen sink drama where the ordinary is glamourised or elevated to a status that outstrips its reality — far from it. Rooney delivers his tales of life in a very simple fashion, like you or I would explain the day, with no real events to hook it on, to a friend. The music is equally simple. Pop is the aesthetic, but it is not afraid to express itself further with traces of abstract sound. Things have slowed down from the first album, but that only serves to massage the sounds and messages further into your head. 3.5/ 5 Stuart Wright


The Melvins — Colussus of destiny (Southern Records)

The Melvins hurt. It is a simple truth that you must accept before proceeding. They forage around their heads, discovering heaps of unacceptable thoughts, and then translate then into crude electronica. Sure, Melvins are a rock band of sorts and this is not electronica in the strictest sense of the word a la Mouse on Mars. However, what they have produced this time is a steady feeder of noises and sounds that are rarely strummed or beaten out of an object. It tries desperately to separate your listening from your brain and damn nearly succeeds. This is music that you could never play properly through your speakers — it needs volume and it needs capturing. It relishes full blast on the headphones. Sonic assaults are inter-cut with discordant profanities and snippets of vulgar porn loops heighten (or is that induce) the dulling of the senses. You wil never recommend this to anyone, but you will cherish it nonetheless — for being a pig headed racket that subliminally comforts the worst thoughts you have throughout listening. 3 out of 5 Stuart Wright

Uriah Heep — Future Echoes Of The Past (CD) (Phantom)

The Legend Continues (DVD)

Picture a thirteen year old boy. Riddled with acne, greasy hair, terrified of girls and whose only escape from the pressures of adolescence was his heavy metal record collection. That was me at one time. Possibly even you as well. Of course, from this list — Iron Maiden, Gillan, Whitesnake, Meat Loaf, Saxon, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Twisted Sister, Motorhead etc — we have since grown up and become musically aware enough to realise that half of them weren’t actually all that heavy at all really. Be honest. If we told a teenager of today that we ever found any of these people threatening in any way, it would take us half an hour to pull them up from their giggle fit on the floor. Which would be wet in the first place from their initial reaction to such a suggestion.

However, one band of the genre, without ever on the surface appearing to over achieve in this country, is still going strong to this very day. That band is Uriah Heep.

That though, is not giving the full picture. Heep have sold over 30 million albums over 30 years. They have played over 3000 concerts worldwide yet are still the same down to earth kind of people they ever were. Incorporating numerous different line ups on their way to the 21st century they have been settled on the current version since 1986. All this and much more can be gathered through watching the band’s fascinating DVD documentary "The Legend Continues".

A certain member of our editorial team pointed out how much it reminded him of Spinal Tap and I’m finding hard to disagree with that point of view. What I DID notice though was that there weren’t many Heep followers in the audience that seemed to be any younger than 35 years old. I suppose this just shows the loyalty of the Uriah faithful and indicates one of the major factors towards the band’s longevity.

Anyway, as always I have to give my mark out of five. Well, I’m afraid this kind of music doesn’t really do it for me any more but I’m the first to admit it has its place in the rock journals so 3/5 for the CD. A well made and interesting account of the band on gives 4/5 for the DVD Tone E

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