Album Reviews: October 2000












Bear - Taking Money From Kids

Sheffield is famous for all the wrong reasons at the moment.

Two crap football teams, an average film about some down and out blokes who turn to stripping that got a lot more credit than it deserved and the…er….steel industry. Nothing wrong with steel of course, but I'll be honest with you, a museum on the history of the stuff doesn't exactly send my pulse racing.

However it would be nice to think that Bear are just the ones to change all that. This truly is an excellent album. Suffice to say I'm sure that, had they been around in the late '70s they would be up there vying for honours with the Boomtown Rats.

Talking of Geldof and co, the third song on this album "21st Century Bob a Job Man" is a Rat Trap for the new millennium and would be a right Royal kick up the proverbials for the sugar sweet low alcohol farce we currently call the UK Singles Chart, whereas "Sunrise from Lhotse" is a beautiful lilting piece of pop that could be played over ten times back to back without getting boring.

Stunning. I doubt if I'll hear a better album this year: 5/5 Tone E







Elevator Suite - Barefoot and Shitfaced

The opening throes of this album startled me, as it became apparent that Elevator Suite were in fact Curiosity Killed the Cat reincarnate! At least that's how they sounded to me.

Thankfully however, the instrumental "The Crown Caper" restored parity followed by the album's standout track, the single "Backaround", a song with a Dodgy like summer feel with undertones of Duran Duran!

Andy Williams would have been proud of "Thinking of You", and the sleeve notes interestingly thank Kelly Brook for "keeping me company playboy style".

All in all not a bad debut but please, next time, burn those pictures of Ben Volpwhatshisname you've got on your wall. 3/5 Tone




Ian Pooley - Since Then

The Germans, as everyone knows, were one of the few teams at Euro 2000 who were worse than us. In an attempt to store national pride, Ian Pooley has decided to use a strangely English sounding name and nod encouragingly at Brazil. Shame then that he has absolutely nothing to do with football.

I'll be honest though, I was quite enjoying the laid back feel of this album until it became apparent that this could have had Shakatak singing over it. That put me right off. It's not bad to be fair, but the only thing I can imagine myself doing whilst listening to this is counting sheep. Not that I dream of sheep I hasten to add. Ahem. 2/5 Tone E



Sgt Rock - Live the Dream (Beggars Banquet)

Sounded like it was going to be quite interesting and original when I started playing it. But then it got boring. Very boring.

I remember years ago, my brother stood at the door of the lounge and asked "Do you want a teabag?" in a rather monotone and deliberately nauseating voice, and when I replied "No thanks", he repeated his original question in the same tone over and over for about 45 minutes. This became really irritating after a short while and that's pretty much how this is! 1/5 Tone E



Big Yoga Muffin - Wherever You Go, There You Are

This band remind me of Barenaked Ladies, REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers in a funny kind of way - with a hint of Violent Femmes thrown in for good measure. It's an OK album, but I can't help thinking that the single "Boredom Is a Luxury" is the best song on it by a mile. Oh, and the full frontal nude (and I'm not entirely sure legal) picture of the chap who sings jumping into a swimming pool will certainly not be gaining it any bonus points either!

If you're pushing me for a favourite track that wasn't a single it has to be the eponymous track. Not much else to say about it. 3/5 Tone E






Manchild - Untied States (Mushroom)

On first play, you'd be forgiven for mistaking this for the new Prodigy album. If it had been however, our man Flint would have been jumping for joy at his latest creation.

The whole thing kicks off at breakneck speed with the superb "Rockin' the Place", follows with two classy singles "The Cliches are True" and "Rehab" and continues in this vain until the unexpectedly mellow meltdown that is "Somethin' In My System".

Pulling off an accomplished debut album like this, if Brett Parker and Max Odell can carry this over to their "difficult" second album they will possibly have completely reinstalled my faith in the UK music scene. 4/5 Tone E







Alpinestars - B.A.S.I.C (Faith & Hope)

No I haven't changed my mind. If you read my singles review you'd know that I think "77 Sunset Strip" sounds like a documentary theme tune. But it's not just that track! Having listened to the whole album I'm sure there are many would be Tomorrow's World like programme creators who have already made a mental note of each and every song on it!

Musically this is very 1980s but also very chilled, so it's a nice blend really.

I imagine you could happily have slept in the back of your parents' car with a blanket over you on your way to Weymouth with this playing. If this had been around back then I wouldn't have even had to cough over all the rude words.

Very enjoyable. 4/5 Tone E






Dope Smugglaz - Dope Radio (Mushroom)

It's a hard life being a DJ. Traveling the length and breadth of these isles, playing an 18 hour set for the Radio One stage at Glastonbury and on top of all that working with Shaun Ryder and Howard Marks amongst others in the pursuit of your latest album. However when you present "Dope Radio" to the world, it's all going to be worth it, chunky knit sounds and phat swells darting in and out of the channels. Vocals that will ensure the highest of recognition and then we all start again.

If you've always avoided dance albums, but however are open to new possibilities, the Dope Smugglaz are certainly that, mixing Stephen Hawking with Yello and getting away with it. 4/5 Nick James






Wilt - Bastinado (Mushroom)

Their album certainly shows a modicum of the kitsch quality suggested by their debut single "Radio Disco", laced with pounding rhythm sections and jangly guitars.

The other 90% is of a group hailing from the Emerald Isle, who did their apprenticeship listening to the Waterboys and striving to become the best rock band they could possibly be. It worked.

Bastinado may sport a rather dubious title, but that's where the similarity ends.

4/5 Nick James









Robbie Williams - Sing When You're Winning (EMI)

It was only days before this landed on my doormat, after the umpteenth reminder appeared regarding this album's coming, that I admitted enough is enough, I'm bored of Robbie Williams! But having read the two page press release word for word, I warmed to its utter sincerity, Robbie admitting that he finds it difficult not to dress up much of what he says in irony.

Ummm, OK so how much of what he does is just for show, as the PR puts it here "A man so maddeningly cool he can hold a stadium audience in the palm of his hand while scratching his tackle with the other". But after all, Robbie is what we all created, Mr Entertainment, there only to please the audience and that's exactly what this album fulfills, to even consider that Robbie could put out a dud at this height of his acclaim would be nothing less than absurd.

If you like a good all round album, void of too many nasty spikes (apart from the haircut) then this, as always is going to fulfill. I might say that although this kicks in with the gusto that you'd expect, the old cynic in me might concede to the music then becoming somewhat like an Arsenal football match, - dependable, but ultimately rarely exciting, and that from a fan of the Gunners. 4/5 Nick James






Bjork - Selma Songs (One Little Indian)

OK, so to kick off let's get this straight, this is not the new Bjork album. It may seem a strange thing to say as you see this sat on the shelves in your local record shop under Bjork, but this is completely different in that the tiny Icelandic elf has tried her hand at acting and composed the music for the film in which she appears. As such, this is not hit single after hit single and is excellently written in mind of a higher calling. This could well see Bjork turn the next Andrew Lloyd-Webber, I hope for her sake it doesn't, but this is an emotive affair that even without seeing the movie, only knowing the outline, is very graphic in the scenes it creates.

I think it was always taken as read that Bjork was not the average pop star and something far deeper dwelled within. Well this could very well be the realising of this potential, certainly for the scoring, we will just have to wait and see whether she is the next De Niro. 4/5 Nick James




Buffalo Tom - A-sides From (Beggars Banquet)
  What is there not to like about this band? Contemporary classics may be one way to redefine the group who have worn out the term "critically acclaimed". Borne out of the same scene that bore others like Sebadoh, Throwing Muses, not to mention the Pixies, being just the start of a long list, Buffalo Tom capture the heart of a whole music scene that although may be only gathered as "underground", is comfortable to sit as such. This album is better than best and although only a collection of songs, rather than an album, should be considered essential for every serious music fan. 5/5 Nick James
Maxim - Scheming (Beggars Banquet)

For anyone who blinked when Maxim last entered the Top 40, it was him who recorded "Carmen Queasy" with Skin from Skunk Anansie.

The follow up is a mixture of hip hop, drum 'n' bass and Jamaican music. I'm not personally a fan of this kind of stuff but this is quite listenable actually. To quote the press release, "Scheming" is buitl around a Bashment rhythm, taking the two step blueprint deep into down and dirty funk territory". Whatever that means, Still like I said, it's quite melodic and not unpleasant. And yes, I do realise that last statement made me sound about fifty. 3/5 Tone E



Alex Lloyd - Black The Sun (EMI)
  Fans of the lighter side of the horror genre may have already unawares encountered Alex's ability to capture an audience, as the album track here, "Snow" featured in the movie "Scream 2". Possibly what results when the content of a Peter Gabriel album collides with indie emanating from past and present, played to a contemporary underlying backing track. What more can I say? Other than Alex's ability has been in no doubt in his Australian home for quite a while and maybe what might have resulted had Hutchence continued his MaxQ project rather than opting for the big sleep. Elliott Smith had better watch his heels, 'cause this guy is good, a stunning debut. 6/5 Nick James
Underworld - Everything, everything (JBO)
  Simon Mao stating that this is the "best live album in the world ever, ever", on primetime ITV, preceding 'A Touch Of Frost', would at least ensure the guy a solid night's sleep without recriminations coming to haunt him in the hour of REM, but I can't honestly see JBO's advertising budget stretching quite that far. Seriously though Underworld put on a show and although you've heard these before, their performance ensures an entirely fresh album. Get the DVD and encounter the performance, warts and all, namely several thousand sweaty bodies. 5/5 Nick James

 

Brothers In Sound - Family Is For Sharing (Regal)
  B.I.S. produce a thick musical brew of heavy patterns, that go nowhere and take too long at that. I so much wanted to fall in love here, but maybe I had the bass tweaked just a little too much, or the unsummer like karma outside my window threw a 'spanner in the works'. Altogether well constructed, if not a little 'Sgt Pepper' after too much acid, sorry it just wasn't happening for me. 2/5 Nick James



Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderment (XL Recordings)
  Part instrumental, part vocal, this album, the debut from the Badly Drawn Boy, heralds a new English talent. Complex in its makeup and yet simple in the clean, uncomplicated musical content that it possesses, the pr describes an album "that is destined to encapsulate the summer of 2000", following the rotten summer that we've had this year I certainly hope not. But going by the summer we were hoping for, it certainly shows that the writer has really listened to this album. A Bruce Springsteen fan, Damon has written the album he wanted to and has not bowed down to popular taste. It paid off, much to the artists surprise this is the Mercury Album of the year. 5/5 Nick James




JJ72 - JJ72 (Lakota)
  I'm not going to mention Joy Division (whoops, where did that come from?) The JJ's, softly spoken Dubliners, have brought to the world the album that anyone hearing their debut single had hoped for. 12 tracks of pop credibility, each little more than five minutes at the very most, have been written to gain maximum impact and they do. The three barely out of their teens sing songs so sweet that Mark's performance on TOTP recently might have won them few friends, but is not a true representation of what you'll find here. Ballads sit side by side the chug of the rock moments that they do so well. Had this been released a little earlier then I'm certain Coldplay would have had a fight on their hands for a nomination in this years Mercury award. 5/5 Nick James
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