Album Reviews: February 2004

 

The Veils - The Runaway Found (Rough Trade)

The Veils will shortly be announcing further UK dates after successful gigs with Cooper Temple Clause, Raveonettes and British Sea Power.

T: Seemingly a large chunk of influence has been taken from The Divine Comedy, at least where the strings are concerned, and the result is a rather warm affair that would be the perfect soundtrack to play in your car on a lazy summers day.

N: I love this band. I can see your reference to Hannon and co in the opening track, recent single "The Wild Son" certainly, but references are rife throughout. Most of all, Finn Andrews has certainly got a voice that would "stop traffic", and I think this is the standout factor. 9/10

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Being 747 - Fun & Games (Wrath)

T: Sounds musically like early Wedding Present but with a less harsh vocal. Probably a tad less exciting though sadly. Relatively catchy tunes, and they're admirably making music they believe in rather than stuff that will sell. The sort of band I would have been more susceptible to in the late eighties than I am now.

N: What you said about making music to believe in, rather than necessarily sell, I find refreshing, and would agree with wholeheartedly. In the early nineties I too would have been more open to this, and why those ten years my junior won't feel the same way is more than a possibility. Personally I love that bands like this still find a place to grow, and I wish them all the very best. 7/10

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Sophia - People Are Like Seasons (City Slang)

An interesting judgment formerly passed on this band was that they sounded like "Mogwai performing the songs of Coldplay". Fascinating idea. Now how much water did that comparison hold?

T: I can very vaguely understand that reference, but that's only down to the piano playing and the way the percussion fits with each production. In other words I don't think Sophia sound like either. They are far closer to Billy Corgan singing to tracks that Tom Waits had dismissed.

N: Why this band can't just be "Sophia" I really don't know. So vocalist Robin Proper-Sheppard does have a tendency to sound maybe more than vaguely like Corgan, and yes, Martin has been know to sit at the old Joanna, and Mogwai sometimes escape pigeonholing, down to their downright awkwardness. I heard in places the late lamented God Machine. All great artists, and Sophia have obviously studied there craft. And for me, the track "Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black)" was where the album headed skyward for me, and oh, did I mention the Jesus and Mary Chain? I think the further you tread in this album, the better it gets. But where was it this album made it for you?

T: Well I'd have to concur that it was the very same place. One thing we should bear in mind though, is that I thought the record began rather weakly, and had we been in a less accommodating frame of mind, we may have discarded this release as "making up the numbers" fodder. But it DOES grow, and eventually evolves into an impressive album. Had we marked it after the first three tracks, I'd have little hesitation in giving it less than five out of ten. Having given it enough of an airing however, the score becomes a LOT more respectable. 7/10

 
 

 

The Stranglers - Norfolk Coast (EMI Liberty)

Five years have elapsed since we last heard a studio album by The Stranglers, and indeed, a full thirteen since they were last signed to a major label. But finally they're back with a new album, so how does it hold up to the wrath of Nick and Tone? (ah come on, we're pussycats this month)

T: Can I be a little cruel to be kind here? I'm not surprised their career took a major nosedive after the departure of Hugh Cornwell, as most of the output we've been fed since by this once great band was tame and uninspiring. They seem to have found their feet somewhat now though - there are plenty of splendid tracks upon "Norfolk Coast" and recent single "Big Thing Coming" was an absolute Cromer of a single. But if you ask me, the real King's Lynn of the bunch is the wonderfully rocky nod back to their former selves on "I've Been Wild".

N: Although this is not the Stranglers of 1977, JJ Burnel is still there at the helm on bass duties, and it has to be said that this still possesses the quality stamp. I haven't made my mind up categorically, as far as ageing punk bands go; the vicious rumble just doesn't seem to be continually there as it should. But to be honest, this might be considered as a bit of a Hunstanton of an album - nice in places, but turn the corner and you're likely to encounter a party of pensioners just off the coast. 6/10

 
 

 

Various Artists - Death Disco - Songs From Under the Dance Floor 1978-1984 (EMI)

I'll let Roger Quail take up the story behind this album - "This compendium takes a closer look at some of the artists who used the spirit of Punk as their point of departure, to set off on a journey into musical waters yet uncharted. It also pokes a pointy stick at the endless white boy quest for the good groove and the urge to be funky".

T: You know what? I'm really itching to give a bad mark to one of this month's releases, but sadly, it's not going to happen on this occasion. I can't think of many other months that we've had such an abundance of quality!

N: Well compilations are just compilatios aren't they? But I think, as Turin Brakes attempt at their own, good compiling of music that would otherwise stop the heart can be the difference between an album that you'd either choose to air in years to come, and one you'd rather resign to the attic or charity shop. This one is the former. 7/10

 
 

 

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand (Domino)

Much is being talked about of the name once lent to the former Archduke of Sarajevo, who it was said had a reputation as a miser and yet managed to susain one of the 'world's greatest love affairs, before being assinated, by parties still at 'war' today. But I digress, misers these guys certainly are not, offering an album that is full of bounty in terms of the indie-pop it seems that this Glaswegian four peice are so well at producing and at war? Well I don't think these have any fear of needing to prove to anyone their credintials in this scope.

An album that rock's along very nicely, with what I can only describe as an 'emo' variety
of guitar driven tunes. Certainly this maybe thought of as a medicine that is far too easy to take, with standout moments coming in the shape and sound of their last single 'Take Me Out', the wonderfully quirky 'Auf Acshe' (make of this one as you will?) and of course their debut in the perfectly smooth and seductive 'Darts Of Pleasure'.

I did feel that at times the music did slip into that of a formulaic guise, but I'm pleased to say I also felt these were few and possibly stunned by what I was listening too felt I had to temper my exuberance. One thing is for sure Kapranos and McCarthy, the bands central song writers, have a gift when it comes to producing words and music that fit so effortlessly into the appearance of that labeled 'pop', yet I felt possesing a depth to keep the listener's attention fixed once inside their sound.

Certainly an album with 'pop' credientials, clocking in at 38'51", this time it'll pass, but I have to say I'm looking forward to their 'concept' album, could be interesting (a'la Radiohead of recent times). 8/10

Nick James

(Oh and you may note that this album is available as a limited double CD featuring a live recording from 'Paradiso' - so get your copy quick).

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Black September - You Can Do Anything If You Put Your Mind To It (Pomona Sounds)

Hands up who remembers John Matthews? No? Then let me jog your memory. He was a member of that early nineties band The High and achieved a measure of success with their "Box Set Go" ep. Anyway, after a ten year absence, during which he's been laying low, travelling around the United States and Mexico. Anyway, he finally got the music bug back, so an opportunity to join Black September after former vocalist Goeff Read left the band just couldn't be turned down. So how good is it?

N: Listening to this, first with no suggestion or comment other than the music, I still found this a hugely enjoyable album. Now being offered the insight we managed to obtain, and then listening again, it was almost being allowed to put a face to the name, although I can say that I found this no less enjoyable, if not a little quizzical regarding the presntation. Then again, maybe not.

T: I'm going to have to be Frank here. "Mmm Betty". Sorry. Terrible joke out of the way, and now I WILL be frank. A lot of the lyrical content on this album is remarkably twee and uninspiring. It's a good job then, that the music is relatively impressive, otherwise this could have bombed for me. 7/10

 
 

 

Paul Kelly – Ways & Means (Cooking Vinyl)

Aussie singer/songwriter Kelly has been recording and releasing original material for nigh on twenty years now, and I have to shamefully confess that this is the first time I have ever heard of him! Still, at least this is a double album with which to acquaint myself, and it’s a fascinating listen from the Hank-Marvin-meets-Pixies style instrumental opener onwards.

The great thing is that, although Kelly is now approaching middle age, he rarely actually gives the impression of an embarrassing tired aging rocker. I mean, ok there is the odd track that is as gentle as a Roger Whittaker tune but he seems to thankfully avoid too many clichés both musically and lyrically. He seems to effortlessly switch between pop, country, rock ‘n’ roll and all out folk throughout.

If you’re asking me to choose a standout track, I’d have to go with either the Tom Pettyish, Dylanesque “Won’t You Come Around” or the charming “Beautiful Feeling” from Disc One, and the relatively sinister sounding “Curly Red” from the more downbeat second disc. Having said that, bear in mind that the first collection of songs is infinitely superior to the second.

For references read Crowded House, The Beautiful South, Simon and Garfunkel and the two solo artists I mentioned earlier in this review.
An interesting release, and had Kelly been twenty years younger, we’d all be citing him as “one to watch” for the future! 7/10

Tone E

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Sid Vicious - Too Fast To Live! (EMI)

Whatever your thinking, you have to admidt that this release is not only well placed being the 25th Anniversary of Sid's untimely passing, but with former band member John Lydon aka ...Rotten having appeared on, and blowing out the ****ing c***'* at 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here', awareness of the former Sex Pistols couldn't be higher. Perhaps I should first come clean and admidt to being more of a 'Clash' fan than one of anything the 'Pistols' produced, however this collection of very raw tunes is something of a stroke. Adering to what I always saw as the ethos of McClaren's boys, that of shere commerciality, this is genius as is their legacy.

Not as nasty, vicious and throwaway as I may have otherwise have thought, this is a collectors compilation, whilst at the same time perhaps introducing 'new blood' into the Sex Pistols dynasty. Mixing rough cut studio mixes, with live recordings, where we find some class moments with covers of 'The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog' and the much recorded '...Stepping Stone' (Bobby Hart & Tommy Boyce). 17 of these moments in all, that I have to confess I found myself enjoying as a document that records a person and place in time. Ratherthan celebrating his death perhaps we should remeber that had Sid still been with us today he would've be celebrating his 47 birthday, but perhaps 'celebrating' would not have been the word he would've been using, living as he did to the 'live fast, die young' moto. So I'll leave the closing words to the man himself..."...burp! Wanna here 'My Way' arseholes?" 8-9/10

Nick James

 
 

Ooops!: Ones that we've (almost) missed

 

David Kitt - Square One (Warner Music Ireland Ltd) (released 19th January 2004)

This being his third album, David Kitt "has taken his music to a plain where wonder and naivete breathe in harmony with skilfurn modern pop song writing and production. A collection of love songs, pop songs and a piece of work that expresses thoughtful cohesion from the Big Star inspired intro statement to the tender guitar-piano-melodica interplay of the closing "Hold Me Close". It is the album that documents the songwriter coming of age, applying his previous exploration of exciting new sounds and techniques into a record of unabashed clarity and soul".

T: Well that's what the press release said, but may I just add that it is also unashamedly, and ultimately, mind numbingly boring! Do you beg to differ or can we turn it off?

N: To be a little more informative than that, tours with the Tindersticks, Moldy peaches, and opening for the likes of They Might Be Giants and Mercury Rev may well halp you to understand where this artist is coming from. Not necessarily sounding like those artists, but David's music certainly contains the air that they hold. A musician with a more alternative nature, but something traditional about his presentation. But maybe forever resigned to play second fiddle, to return to the earlier comment made. 4/10

web site

 
 

 

Ryan Adams - Rock N Roll (UMG) (released 3rd Novemeber 2003)

Having sold nearly 150,000 copies of his "Adams' Gold" album in the UK alone, made several "Best of the Year" lists and left numerous music hacks drooling, "Lost Highway" has already been hailed as "a terrific piece of work" by the likes of Mojo and the future looks very bright indeed.

N: With a cover reminiscent of his (almost) namesake (how do I know? well on an earlier format, I'll admit I've got them all!), Ryan shows just why dropping letters should not be a practise frowned upon. Although this is not your average "rock album", as Ryan packs in alternative references throughout, from seventies, eighties and nineties in my mind.

T: I honestly don't know what I can say about this album. Shall i just do a little dance instead? Here you go...(Tone does a little dance)

N: (deadpan) I think we'll just mark it shall we? 6/10

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