Album Reviews: January 2003


808 State - Outpost (Circus)

Featuring collaborations with Elbow vocalist Guy Garvey and two members of Alabama 3, 808 State's latest album is released in February. You may be surprised to learn that the outfit has been recording since 1988 now, a year which saw the release of "Newbuild", now a legendary album often touted as one of the greatest dance albums of all time. Don't forget that this was in an era before dance music had really captured the hearts and imagination of the general public, so the praise heaped upon them is warranted. Time to find out whether they've still "got it" or not.

N: I don't like this unique packaging - booklet housed under tray - what's the point of that then? That's crap that is, it's a dreadful book too, all bloody artwork, can't read it. But I suppose it's the music we are here to review.

T: Well spotted. And the first track, "606" actually reminds me of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" for some odd reason. the rest of the album kind of fluctuates between sounding like New Order, the Special AKA (after Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staples had left) and has an overriding ambient feel to it as well.

N: You half expect to see a herd of bleating sheep sidle into view and then float off, as they've been chewing too much of the fungal vegetation. 8/10

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InMe - Overgrown Eden (Music For Nations)

One of our main featured interviews this month, INME are another band criminally young to be making music as mature as they do. About as close to being an overnight success as you could possibly get, this group is out to prove that they are so much more than "just another rock band".

T: It's amazing how American this band sound (and I'm not talking Nickelback or The Calling here), and I am amazed that all three members are still in their teen years. It is easy to spot the majority of their influences herein - Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd if you look deep enough are there in abundance, but, as we pointed out with the latest single, they have indeed made their sound their own without seeming to owe too huge a debt to any band in particular. Indeed, if you go by the metal bands mentioned, they seem to be infinitely more tuneful than most groups of that type.

N: High energy speed guitar if there is ever such a likening. An army of ten thousand miniature Kurt Cobains off their faces on a caffeine driven frenzy, well that's the introduction and debut single taken care of. The pace does alter, words change, and it does become clear that the tiny Inme have more about them than air guitar, knee length trousers and Dr.Martens but I wish to retain the image of an army of ten thousand mini Kurt Cobains. That pleases me.

T: You're on form today mate, you should take drugs more often before reviewing. 9/10

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Erasure - Other People’s Songs (Mute)

Bloody Nora! They still goin? Indeed they are. There comes a stage in every band’s life where cover versions become an essential part of filling albums and B-sides. Erasure's, of course, are no strangers to this (reference ABBA-ESQUE), and this album boasts 12 covers from the past 30-odd years. What does it sound like? Well, it sounds exactly as you would expect….like a camp diva singing over 80’s dance presets. Nothing wrong with that my sweets, is there? Not at all. Erasure's strengths were always catchy songs over retro (to everyone but Vince Clark) muzak. They’ve penned a few classics in their time so now they’ve turned their attention to butchering other people's.

When this album works (“When will I see you again?”) it's because the originals were hi-camp-gay-pop, but for the bulk of it, the songs simply sound like novelty bastard karaoke sons of their fathers. Listening to Cockney Rebel’s 'Come Up and See Me's' intro guitar riff played on a thirty year old ”shitysizer” is enough to resign Erasure to the Butlin’s circuit forever. Unfortunately (for our ears), this is the pattern for all of the album. You leave this here never wanting to hear the original again, and that’s surely illegal Mr and Mrs Clarke. 1/10

Parker Biro

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Jeff Klein - Everybody Loves A Winner (One Little Indian)

It's been nearly three years since Jeff Klein released his critically acclaimed debut album "You'll Never Get To Heaven If You Break My Heart". The artist believes this is an even better album, and insists "As dark as my music is, it's actually pretty optimistic". I guess he's got his fingers crossed as to what Nick and Tone are going to say then...

N: Looks like Nick Cave, sounds like Nick Cave, I wonder if his middle name is something like Frank, Freddie or Frobisher, now that WOULD be spooky. I bet his luggage is continually returned to New York whether it's lost or not. But as for the guitars, I bet they've not seen a razor in months, balm is just a misspelling of a holiday location.

T: On second thoughts, maybe you should take less drugs. This is quite uplifting actually. I remember when, several years ago, my girlfriend of the time left me, and I filled my spare time of the week or so afterwards listening to Radiohead's "OK Computer" album, and believe it or not, it really cheered me up. I get the impression that "Everybody Loves A Winner" would have much the same effect. So, there you go, take my advice - if you've recently been heartbroken, give this a listen and you'll feel ten times better. Either that or you'll end up sticking your head in the oven anyway.

N: I bet that guy was one of the underachieving geniuses at school. He sounds to me just like a male Lisa Germano - his vocal phrasing, his tempo - he's cool.

T: Hmm..a male Lisa Germano, now there's an interesting notion. 9/10

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Camper Van Beethoven - Tusk (Cooking Vinyl)

Don't panic, it's not a complete remake of the old Fleetwood Mac album of the same name...oh, hang on a minute...I've just read the press release...and it seems that it is! How bizarre an idea is that? Keep an open mind, and just maybe you'll be surprised...

T: Well at least they've kept the essence of the original album anyway.

N: Like a hippopotamus or a similarly large animal, it lumbers into sight, stays and refuses to leave. Can CVB be allowed the same comparison? Well, judging by their recently re-released catalogue, I think they probably can.

T: I must take this and show it to the missus as it has a giraffe on its back cover and for some inexplicable reason, she seems to find this particular animal lucky. Maybe she just likes long necks. Must make sure I never introduce her to Leonardo Di Caprio. Anyway, enough of such nonsense. This is a well recorded, well directed tribute to the original, and whilst it is an off the wall idea, it works, it really does. 7/10



Mary Lorson & Billy Cote - Piano Creeps (Cooking Vinyl)

For those who aren't aware, Mary and Billy were the founder members of critically (if not publicly) acclaimed nineties band Madder Rose. This latest project is a collection of compositions stemming from the duo's work creating music for film.

T: I can see why this would be film music, but it does indeed seem to stand up on it's own as an album. Something to stick on as background noise anyway.

N: Well it ain't gonna drive 'em wild. Music to accompany an installation or similarly arty presentation. 6/10



Eyes Adrift - Eyes Adrift (Cooking Vinyl)

Nobody could accuse Krist Novoselic of being a slacker, somewhat ironic given the label bestowed on the generation that were spawned and reared on the music of Nirvana. This latest incarnation is a collaboration with the Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood and Sublime's Bud Gaugh. Should be an interesting listen.

T: A totally different direction for all three really, although closer in production to the Meat Puppets than either of the other bands mentioned. The guitar rhytm is perhaps more similar to the Getz & Gilberto classic "The Girl From Ipanema" occasionally, and this is an extremely effective, singalong album, even if one of the tracks sounds like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir".

N: I think these guys have a wish to have been considered wildcats at a time when love was free and Austin Powers ruled supreme. Not at all what you may expect, that is until you arrive at the track st which you speak, "Telescope". All in all, almost a concept album. 8/10

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Danse Macabre - The Faint (City Slang)

A "contemporary album of dance driven electronic music with the exaggerated accents of a rock band". So we're told, but do we agree?

T: Well, the intro to the first track "Agenda Suicide" reminds me of the episode of "Spaced" where Tim's speed clubbing mate starts dancing rave like to the sound of the telephone. The album is what Duran Duran would have sounded like if they'd formed in the nineties after swallowing too many E's.

N: This echoed memories of an eighties revival of early synth pop, where analogue reigned and movements were sparse. Reference Kraftwerk and pre "Dare" Human League.

T: But not a bad effort all the same, and I bet they're a cracking live band. 8/10



Clearlake - Cedars (Dusty Company/Domino Recordings)

This is the second album from Clearlake, and have won themselves fans in the guise of Jarvis Cocker, Stephen Malkmus, Mark & Lard and The Delgados amongst others. This album was produced with former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde.

T: My mate Dave, who is a stand up comedian and appears regularly on Jerry Sadowitz show, has been promising me he'll get us an interview with this band for a long time now. Up until now, I've not been that bothered that he hasn't kept his word, but having heard what a great album this sounds, mixing clever lyrics with music of such grandeur, I have to say that it's about bloody time he got it sorted.

N: Your mate Dave aside, unsurprisingly to my mind, the spacial sound offered up by the Clearlake boys feeds a primal desire for all that is good. Augmented chords flood, the mind is evil, and a spine chilling air drifts through the track "I'd Really Like To Hurt You", and so much of this continues. In summation, quite superb. 9/10

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The Minus 5 -Down With Wilco (Yep Roc Records/Cooking Vinyl)

The Minus 5 is a pop collective formed by Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, and this album features recurrent participants Peter Buck and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies.

T: Very similar to some of Roddy Frame's solo work, and that's not such a bad thing. Certainly a very poppy, commercial album and had his voice not been so reminiscent of the Aztec Camera frontman, the music would have put me in mind of Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

N: The Minus Five sum up just what it is to be caught taking time off school, as Peter Buck and Ken Stringfellow I'm sure could testify. It's something different entirely, without the regular constraints of having to be who you are.

T: Good point John. 7/10

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Berkeley - Hope, Prayers and Bubblegum (Supremo Recordings)

It's unclear whether Berkeley are named after the classy actress from the ahem...multi award winning film "Showgirls" or not, but the fact thet this album was produced by the legendary Steve Albini at least warrants it a listen:

N: Well they open in fine fettle, at a pace that suggests Atomicduster favourites too. We've drawn the comparison already this month, but JPL are doing well for themselves.

T: It's certainly got great big hairy testicles but I'm not sure this deserves quite such high acclaim. Don't get me wrong, it's good, but it doesn't seem quite as well thought out as the bands mentioned, and I doubt if I'll be wearing this out by overplaying it.

N: Ok, I'll be inclined to agree, and perhaps my comparison was drawn a little early on this occasion, but that a seed was planted only suggests how much of an influence the earlier mentioned group could be. 6/10


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