Album Reviews: May 2001

The Black Crowes — Lions (V2)

It won’t surprise you a great deal to learn that the Black Crowes new album sounds just like…ummm..The Black Crowes! Seemes they’ve decided to steal (and slow down) the guitar riff from Jimi Hendrix’s classic hit "Crosstown Traffic" for the albums opening throes of "Midnight From The Inside Out". I’ll level with you — I saw the Black Crowes headlining at one of those ill fated Phoenix festivals held near Stratford-Upon-Avon a few years back and I was really looking forward to them. The problem was, halfway through their set I was bored with them and headed with my two (equally vacant looking) friends towards the exit to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion later. Not that you won’t find some decent tunes here. "Lickin’" is as good a rock ‘n’ roll song as you’re likely to hear if that’s your thang, and the more laid back "Losing My Mind" would probably provide them with a fair sized hit single, but if you’re not already a fan, "Lions" is pretty darned unlikely to convert you. 2/5 Tone E


Michael Franti & Spearhead (Parlophone)

Interesting concept, basing an entire album around a self presented radio show. Franti sounds very much like Barry White vocally, but you need to imagine the big man singing hard hitting politically challenging lyrics to get the full picture here. The first time I played this, it sounded like just another funked up throwaway novelty record. I really don’t know what I was playing at, because this is an important release with pertinent messages to most of the tracks featured. "Rock The Nation" is probably the one that kicked sense into my head (and arguably the most powerful song on the album). Set to a musical backbeat of funk, hip-hop, soul, rap and Motown, except that, unlike so many of today’s contemporary R&B oufits, Franti and Spearhead really do have something worthwhile to say and we really should sit up and listen. 4.5/5 Tone E


Stereophonics — Just Enough Education To Perform (V2)

Yes I know it’s been number one in the album chart for the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately the release date made it awkward for me to do the review for the April issue, so you’ll have to make do with it now, ok?

Anyway I had high hopes for this album after the release of their extremely strong recent single "Mr Writer". It all began so well, "Vegas Two Times" gets the ball rolling with the kind of rocky number I was hoping for, and "Lying In The Sun" and "Step On My Old Size Nines" are two more acoustically driven chill outs more akin to "Performance And Cocktails" sandwiched around the previously named single. Some of the tracks following these drift worryingly close into Rod Stewart territory, but not enough to be too concerned about. At the same time, other songs have started to become so folky that you half expect them to be headlining Cropreddy soon! Listen to "Nice To Be Out" if you don’t believe me and THEN try denying it.

I know normally when you start with the words "It all began so well" it tends to mean it goes downhill somewhere, but not so here. There are admittedly one or two tracks that don’t really do it for me ("Watch Them Fly Sundays" doesn’t inspire me particularly), but overall it all ends pretty well too….although Rachel Hunter ought to be careful next time she visits Wales. 4/5 Tone E


Ash - Free All Angels (Infectious)

To say I was stunned is understatement of the year. I was under the impression that My Vitriol’s "Finelines" was going to be impossible to beat for the prestigious title of "Atomic Duster’s Best Album Award". Well, for me, Ash have surpassed it with what I would have to concede is the best of their three (proper) albums.

Kicking off with a summery feel, "Walking Barefoot" is a joyous we-are-ash-and-we-are-back kind of affair. With more an explosion than a bang it seems. The two fantastic singles "Shining Light" and "Burn Baby Burn" come next, and then came the song that made my jaw drop and left me motionless for a good while, "Candy". This emotionally charged track makes use of the Walker Brothers "Make It Easy On Yourself" which effectively emphasises Tim Wheeler’s heart warming lyric "Don’t you know it’s alright to be alone? / You can make it on your own".

Anyway I could go through every track on this album, from the band’s eye view of underage sex, "Cherry Bomb", through the dirtiest, sleaziest Sean Ryder-esque song on the album "Submission", past the soaring tenderness of "Someday" right through to the Jagger like final track "World Domination" but one thing’s for sure - I would heap the same amount of praise on each and every one of them. So pick a track, "Shark" maybe? or "Nicole", which would be mentioned in the papers every day had Eminem recorded it. Pick a track, embrace it and love it forever. Remember an Ash album is for life, not just for Easter. 6/5 Tone E.


Shed Seven - Truth Be Told (Artful)

Whether this album succeeds or not is due largely to the amount of press and media support or lack of it that it receives. Either way though, anyone who decides to part with their well earned cash for the York band’s latest will not be disappointed. In fact they will almost certainly be delighted, for this is on a par with, and possibly even better than their most well respected album "A Maximum High". You may have heard the new single "Cry For Help" which, with the right amount of airplay would make a huge impact on the charts. The only problem is the stubborn "safe" attitude of certain major radio stations so we’ll have to wait and see. Anyway you’ve got all you need here - the rockier sound of old is found on such tracks as "If The Music Don’t Move Yer", "Never Felt So Cold" and the quirky "Love Equals", whereas songs like "Feathers" and my particular fave "Laughter Lines" tug at your heart strings gently without ever becoming twee. Shed Seven have come up with an album that sticks two fingers up at the shallow businessmen who once partied under the champagne generated by the band at its early peak but have since turned their back on the possibility of it being surpassed. Good on you lads, I for one hope you prove the doubters wrong. 4/5 Tone E.


Everclear Songs From An American Movie — Vol. Two: Good Time For A Bad Attitude (Capitol).

A band who know how to write a ‘rocking’ good album. Music that combines the funk of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers with the punk of an older Green Day with more time on their hands, on an album that keeps the audience on their toes as they steer the sound through chicanes of musical fashion.

A group who would seem not to give a damn about the money and trend that governs music today. As when they released the fore runner to this, ‘Learning How To Smile’, instead of ‘milking’ the product for all it was worth, they went straight back into the studio to lay down what we see today as ‘Good Time For A Bad Attitude’. No umpteenth date World tour, no sponsorship deal with one of the leading Cola brands, just the music brought to us, their audience, in back scratching, head pumping brilliance.

Lyrically, on this album you will find none better, as when it comes to tongue in cheek rock’n’roll, Everclear have studied the text and achieved honours in every subject. I especially enjoyed the line that went "…all I ever wanted to do was play a guitar in a rock and roll band, now I’m just losing my hair and I’m learning to smile like I just don’t care…" (Short Blonde Hair), perhaps sentiments that should be brought to mind when we next consider taking the …. out of the guys from the Quo. Hang on a moment, maybe the guys from the Quo may even be able to claim royalties here for artistic influence.

These are not another band from the wave of ‘nu-rock’ bands that are currently invading our music scene. Instead Everclear are the ‘real thing’, not quite ageing rockers, but they really do know how to ply their wears. On an album that saw the light of day Stateside 6 months ago. Twelve tunes rock out, with the occasional expletive and ‘parental advisory’sticker stuck to the front, this will surely add to the sales figures, but clearly this album needs none of the afore, just a product that will appeal to the young as well as the seen it before among us.

When the band promised to deliver on the release of ‘Learning How To Smile’, they really did keep to their word, judging by what we are presented on this explosive counterpart. An album if not band that could quite as easily go under the title ‘Uck That!’, but with a tour imminent a cola sponsored follow-up might not seem quite so possible. 4.5/5 Nick James.


The Avalanches - Since I Left You (Modular)

It’s pretty much a written rule that, every time I attend one of the major music festivals in this country, I will at some stage end up lying flat on my back and out of my tree, listening to music like this in a tent called Sybil Twirl’s World Of Paranoia, or something similar. Then some clumsy bastard will drunkenly step on my hand, and whilst at that point I will probably be in no fit state to register pain it will bloody hurt in the morning. Aah festivals, don’t you just love ‘em? This album is a chilled but refreshing break from the norm and has made me eager to once again to be caked in mud, sold dubious looking samosas and be forced to squeeze my butt cheeks together for an entire weekend. Such sweet memories. 4/5 Tone E.


Timo Maas - Connected (Various artists)

As with everything this man touches, this is a work of art. He may be the ugliest man in dance music, but when it comes to pumping, driving house, this man is out on his own. The album is everything he epitomises, dark quality house music. It is so nice to see a compilation album that doesn't look like all the rest, in fact the only track you may see on any other mix album is Timos own remix of Fatboy Slims "Star 69", which is probably the best Timo Maas remix since Azzido de bass - Dooms night. Other tunes of note on the album are Placebos "Special K" (again a Timo remix), Satoshi tomiies "Love in Traffic" with a haunting Kelli Ali vocal, and "Innocence" by Delerium remixed by Deep Dish.

It may not be an album you'd want to listen to on the beach or at your barbeque (a bit too heavy), but to get you revved up for a massive night out, You can't go wrong. 3.5/5 Martyn Owen

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