Archives Album Reviews: June 2000

Fluid — Digital Phunk (No Bones)

Digital Phunk I have no hesitation in saying, is the product of a crazed mind. As drum and bass fornicates with jazz, funk, acid tonesand any number of dance rhythms. The Tony Hancock of electronica, this is both fast passed and over indulged. An obese journey that just cannot stop. 5/5 for musical vision, 0/5 for any commercial sense, there is no middle ground.

Nick James

Porcupine Tree — Lightbulb Sun (Snapper Music)

To hear PT now described as "rocks best kept secret" is somewhat alien, as when I first met their lush sounds the fact they were trying to be a rock band makes me think that I either missed the point or played the wrong record. But back to our current featured product and I hear a band that is so blatantly stuck in the Seventies, where Pink Floyd oldies meet chords from a Pearl Jam album, this might as well be a book written in ancient Greek as far as today’s audience goes. 2/5

Nick James

Muki — Quiet Riot (Mantra)

Ok so I’ve read the press release and it comes across as an over indulgent slice of musical excess, but maybe this is down to enthusiasm on the part of its author rather than anything to do with the band, I think I’d better press play. So maybe this initial reaction was a little harsh, glorious rhythms are given space to fly amidst soaring flute, but this is where the euphoria stops. The rest of the music though gives me the feeling of being squeezed into an overfull lift, but at least the oversized guy at the front hasn’t farted. 2/5

Nick James

Ween — White Pepper (Mushroom)

Their seventh album starts with a spirit warming ‘Chug Chug’ of rhythm guitar and proceeds to tribute George Harrison buy the time Flutes Of Chi comes around. I think that the Ween Brothers here must have been brought up on a diet of The Beatles, ELO and Caribbean Crush judging by the mash that emerges. An album that is really to erratic to fulfil the needs of more than the established clique. This will please those who are already familiar with their crazy passages, however for today’s junk food generation Captain Beefheart passed through Spinal Tap’s PA may be a little to rich a dish. 1/5

Nick James

Ween — White Pepper (Mushroom)

Mushroom Recordings

To get into this record simply jump to track 9, ‘Pandy Fackler.’ It is the story of a working girl set to the merriest, flat out pop tune you are likely to hear this side of the Doobie Brothers. Once you have digested it’s infectious qualities then you need to move to ‘Stroker Ace’. A totally different song, because metal rules okay on this one. Like "Stone cold crazy’ by Queen, this is insistent rifferama infuses a hedonistic freedom with no real message or guidance — it’s just a feeling this rock thing. Now I know it easy to take music too serious, but Ween are an exception. They have spoiled audiences for nearly ten years with an array of songs that most bands have not even had time to listen to, never mind write them. Most of all, you get Ween, and on White Pepper you get to be part of their incredible musical journey. They just get better at what they do best. 5/5

Stuart Wright

Bellatrix — It’s All True (Fierce Panda)

Another band of ‘blue eyed’ Icelandic lovelies have won over the nations magazines and look set to achieve ‘Press Darling’ status. Indie greatness may already have come knocking, but eight years since their formation, some might say "it’s about time to"! 600 gigs in this time would suggest that they have served a gruelling apprenticeship and certainly this album is strong on content, but whether they are set to become another Blur or Radiohead, of that I am unsure, maybe this is a little too Blue-Print. Nothing terribly original I’m afraid. 3/5

Nick James

Dialated Peoples — The Platform (Capitol)

Phat ‘Shaftesque’ beats and scratching that we’ve heard before at a Portishead gig, would seem to add weight to the criticisms that Hip Hop is just a form of plagiarism. Freestyle street poetry might be a better way of describing this album, which is commercial through and through, or at least in the way Public Enemy find an audience. Although you may continually ask yourself whether you’ve passed this way before and affirm your belief in de-ja vu, finding familiar sights and sounds along the way, this is a totally absorbing album. 4/5

Nick James

Midfield General — On The Floor At The Boutique (Skint)

Big Beat Boutique’s attraction has become legendary since its Brighton inception. This is the latest in a continuing series that has included Fat Boy Slim and Lo Fidelity Allstars at the controls and attempts to bring into your living room some of the feeling of the real deal. The Midfield General, aka Damien Harris has collected together a series of 20 phat tunes that bring together a set that sees House, Techno and Hip Hop dance the light fantastic, with a sprinkling of retro kitche thrown in for good measure. 4/5

Nick James

Polak — Swansongs (One Little Indian)

Indie greatness usually only comes knocking once, but will occasionally allow the benefit of the doubt to those who show outstanding potential. Piotr Fijalkowski (try saying that after a night on the tiles) is one such musician. Coming from the tried and tested Adorable, born out of the heady days of early nineties indie/rock, Pete has now formed the aptly named Polak. With vocals that combine Bad Vibes, Lloyd Cole, an earlier Julian Cope solo incarnation and hints of Jeff Buckley at his best, coupled with driving indie rock that whips up a storm. History bears witness that Adorable could lay claim to the title of music’s best kept secret, but with such a strong debut Polak deserve to be more than just a secret this time round. 5/5

Nick James

Foil — Never Got Hip (13th Hour Recordings/Mute)

This was no chance meeting between Kurt Cobain’s loins and the mind of Francis Black that brought us to this junction. I have to say that Foil produced a debut of pretty uncontrolled tunes, although a collection that was obviously a journey of discovery. Never Got Hip is the product of a ‘Generation-X’ whose path has become clear and resulted in an album that knows where it is going and where it has been. Elements of The Pixies, downbeat grunge and passages rewritten from the vocals of the Blue Aeroplanes are found here. A kicking rock album that possesses the all important ‘Pop’. 5/5

Nick James

Kathryn Williams — Little Black Numbers (CAW Records)

Due for release later this month (June 12th) comes the second album from Liverpool born singer/songwriter, Kathryn Williams. She has drawn comparisons ranging from Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Cowboy Junkies and if you know Lisa Germano (4AD), soften her refrain and this might also apply. The album approaches its audience in an almost submissive manner, apologising at every stage, never once forcing a message. Without a doubt a rising star, but choose carefully as it won’t be to everyone’s taste. 2/5

Nick James

Turn — Check My Ears (Infectious)

Check My Ears will bring prospective fans upto date with the group’s output, being their first 3 7" singles. Hailing from County Meath in Ireland, the group appear to have picked up influences from Nirvana to Tool, although I have to say can be a little patchy in places. They are better suited to the gut wrenching numbers, than the ballads that they attempt more than once, where is there calling? 2/5

Nick James

David Holmes — Bow Down To The Exit Sign (Go Beat Records)

It’s been almost three years since Let’s Get Killed, and I ask myself "was this album compiled in order to reflect this passage of time?" I say this because it commences in a rather awkward manner, almost "Holmes goes rock!", with Bobby Gillespie making up the numbers in his low slung manner. We eventually see Homes get into his stride with what we have come to expect, bloated hip hop grooves and echoes of distant voices, interspersed with the usual almost incidental decapitated sound bites. A good album if you manage to get past the auto-masturbation, but certainly not his best, Out Run, with vocals by Martina (Tricky) is the highlight. 2/5

Nick James

Royal Trux - Pound for pound

Domino Recordings

It would seem that RT are mellowing with old age. Having already proclaimed themselves (in a tongue in cheek manner) ‘Veterans of disorder’ they have gone out of their way to play music that is so close to just bar room blues, it could scare hardcore fans of theirs. What is erupting from this refining of their style is the melody that only bubbled beneath the surface on early outings. Now they are glam rockers (‘Platinum tips’) and bar room rockers (original version of ‘Accelerator’). Of course, this commercialisation of their sound is relative and to the untrained ear, this will still be noisy and tuneless. The noisy is the sound of the tuning and the tuneless is the apathy that is applied — not to suggest that theband are lazy wasters, because you do not go into a studio and songs appear from nowhere, it takes hard work and creativity. Sonic Youth and Ween have the same ability to provide musical quality when it could be perceived as trashing tradition. RT, the Steely Dan of a don’t care generation. 4/5

Stuart Wright

Sonic Youth — NYC Ghosts and flowers


"Red light night, tangled heart, midnight hair, poor man’s bride …" is spoken softly at the start of ‘Renegade Princess’ and Thurston Moore is at pains to say it all, but before you are lost in some lamenting emotion, anger kicks in. The tempo shifts and the volume quells any delicacy that was introduced. The anger builds and it seems to be coupled with frustration … and then tranquility, like only Sonic Youth are capable. It sounds like monkey wrenches hit against telephone cables, mixed with morse code. This song encompasses the whole Sonic Youth thing as it stands right now. A band that have always been at the brink, who finally got a push when they had their equipment stolen. Now you have Sonic Youths history re-written. It is exciting to know this, because they retread some successful paths forged by their albums in the mid to late eighties. They even have time to look back at the Geffen days ("Nevermind, what was it anyway’ is a good example). Lee Renaldo gets the best song and title track on the album. A non-linear tale that bubbles over the side when the white heat is applied. A band that will only ever be number one in your heart. 4.5/5

Stuart Wright

Sodastream — Looks like a Russian (Tugboat Records)

Sodastream would be an easy target for those who want their thrills and spills from music, because they would never give you them. This is an indulgent affair for the indulgent individual. They are a band from Australia, who sound like the mellow cousins of New Zealand favourites, The Chills. You guessed it, you are entering a heartachingly good songwriting zone. And while The Chills are geographically closer than bands in the UK, don’t be surprised if you are left thinking this is another take on Belle and Sebastian (Matt Walker and Mick Cooke lend a hand). The voice singing to you cares for the words and for the person listening. The angst will take you in under its roof, and leave you comtemplating words such as, "I guess I got it wrong, again," on ‘Done with everything’. When you consider the music, you find it only serves to prolong that contemplation even further. Al Stewart could have contributed to this album, but equally, you are left thinking that the spirit of Nick Drake painfully surveys the atmosphere and depth in these tunes.

Stuart Wright

The Junket — Lux Safari

The Junket, a three piece from Kettering start off with a nice intense chunk of guitar pop called "Adolessense" and from the outset it appears all very promising. "Night with Red" is another great song, reminiscent of the Longpigs, while "59 Rope" is sung in the manner of ex-Associates frontman Billy Mackenzie (God rest his soul) and is probably the pick of the bunch. I was expecting to be set up for a remarkable finale by now. However it didn’t quite turn out that way. The trouble is, what the trio appear to be best at is a good old fashioned upbeat pop song and whilst there are a number of this genre on the album (see "Ten times" and "Second on patrol" — in fact I’ve changed my mind, the latter is now my favourite track), the slower ones don’t really work that well. In saying that, I would add that I liked 7 of the tracks a LOT and….and…..hang on I’m just listening to the album again and the slow ones DO work…especially "Female Low".

Look I’d better just mark it now before I change my mind — looks like you caught me at the right time lads. 4/5

Tone E

Mandy Moore — I Wanna Be With You

Mandy Moore is gorgeous. Mandy Moore has just turned sixteen. Let us be thankful for small mercies.

Seriously though, this is actually not bad. I mean I admit it probably helps if you’re a teenager in terms of really getting into it, but you can’t knock a good pop song, and there are plenty of future top tens on here. My money’s on "Everything my heart desires" being the smash from this album.

I’m probably being quite generous right now as when this landed in front of me I had horrific thoughts of young Mandy being from the Carey/Houston/Dion "Listen to my marvellous voice" school of warbling. Which she isn’t, and I am eternally grateful for that.

Plus, if I give her a good review you never know, she might give me a blow job. 3/5

Tone E

Iron Maiden — The Wicker Man (EMI)

Boy this takes me back. I would have been about 13 years old, standing there in my Eddie t-shirt, wondering why all the nice girls hated me.

Sad to say nothing’s changed. Musically that is — I don’t still believe all girls hate me. I mean, they might do but I just don’t believe it anymore.

Anyway I was interested in reviewing this if only because the wicker man is such a top film, but what can I tell you about Iron Maiden (complete with the returning Brucie bonus) that you don’t already know? Nothing, that’s what.

Basically if you liked them before you’ll like this and if you didn’t you probably won’t even bother listening. Me? I thought it was ok. 2.5/5

Tone E

Babybird — Bugged (Echo)

Singer/Songwriter and soon to be author, Stephen Jones goes public with another collection of intimate thoughts. Every bit as good and indeed better than I had anticipated, a genius of musical prose just goes from strength to strength. Music gets interesting here too, with a number of paces and influences combining to stunning affect, a musical soup where Shaun Ryder and Bobby Gillespie would feel just as at home. Wow! 5/5

Nick James


Stephen Jones - The Bad Book (IMP Fiction)

It was that line from You’re Georges (the one with the ice cube), that really made people stand-up and take note of Stephen Jones, or Baby Bird at least. Four earlier self promoted albums in under a year and then a deal with the Echo Label. Eight albums now must suggest that you hAve at least mastered the English language, but now comes the novel, Stephen’s first published attempt at full blown fiction, or is it.

The Bad Book could well be called "Austrailia", such is the suggestion of the setting, but seriously, this is a very credible book. It has all the core elements, an idea that very quickly draws you under its spell and has you joining the dots to make sense of what it is you’ve just read. A style of writing that comes across as very familiar. Concentrating on the book’s central and only real character, only ever refering in the third party, to those others involved. Very slightly sinister, but it is this that will keep you reading.

Certainly an idea a budding director could make a play of (BBC2?) and the first I am sure of many novels if Stephen’s prior writing ability is anything to judge the future by.

Nick James

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