Album Reviews: March 2004

 

Pink Floyd - The Final Cut (EMI)

Be at no disillusion, this is the classic 1983 Floyd album, remastered and reissued, "A Requiem For The Post War Dream". Roger Waters last project with the band and one he in fact wrote in 1982, you'll probably get the references present along the way. An album I was first introduced to in 1990 and one that is still as fresh today as it was all those years ago. A true audiophile title, this is the album I would take to my desert island and as I found, several years after its last play in my life, still excites me. Lyrics so powerful that they should leave you dumb struck, politics and compassion, humour that cuts like a knife, none more so than on the brief 'Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert'. Familiar stories of 'big boys' playing with even 'bigger guns', a cap gun replaced with a cruise missile, Water's message was clear, did they listen?

The album that spent 25 weeks in the UK charts on release, this time round features the single 'When The Tigers Broke', the first 7" from the record, that didn't in fact make it to "the final cut". Why is an odd question, as the record sits perfectly on this title, one can only assume it may've been the band's unease at releasing an album that featured '13' songs? A truly great album, that oddly is still as relevant today as it was 21 years ago. What else can I say, this is a must, WOW! 10/10

Nick James

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The Waterboys - This Is The Sea (EMI)

The album that gave Mike Scott, Karl Wallinger et 'al minor chart success in on its release in 1985, with no greater recognition coming from the single to be taken from this album, that of 'The Whole Of The Moon'. It may be easy to derive exactly why this album didn't receive its true place in the anal's of history at that time with Madonna, Kate Bush and Springsteen riding high round-a-bout then.

An album that rings of the time of its release, 1985, with films such as 'Pretty In Pink', 'The Breakfast Club' coming immediately to mind. Whether these films featured songs from this group I'm uncertain, but its the memories that this conjours. So here we find a re-mastered copy of the album, with the added reward of a 14 track bonus disc thrown in for good measure, featuring unreleased tunes taken from Mike Scott's own archive, as well as b-side, versions, try-outs and a live performance of 'This Is The Sea'. A worthwhile collection for anyone's money, as well as being musically sound. 8/10

Nick James

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N*E*R*D - Fly Or Die (Virgin)

The second musical contribution to be made by those guy's from N*E*R*D, short of their production credits as The Neptunes (reference, Britney, Timberlake, Jay-Z, Usher, No Doubt, oh there are so many) and certainly an evolution from their earlier released 'In Search Of...'. So what are we hearing when we hear N*E*R*D? Well not what you may at first assume from the association made of the term, but "No one Ever Really Dies" should be considered when approaching the 'band' and the beliefs of Pharrell Williams, one third of their number.

The earlier incarnation saw tunes such as 'Lapdance' and 'Rock Star' and that albums content was far harder in its approach. Although this still bears the "Parental Advisory" label on the cover, possesses a greater helping of 'funk', in places reminiscent of the sounds of a Prince circa 'Black Album', but on the whole is routed in the place 'pop' comes from. However instead of the disposable 'pop' we may've become used to, this time has been carefully considered and deserves to stand up alongside works already gaining the highest esteem. Titles here contain great drama and a soundstage far beyond the boundaries of your hi-fi.

Taking 'hip hop' beyond anyone's pre-conceptions, these guys already consider themselves up alongside the likes Quincy Jones and Rod Templeton, when it comes to the production stakes (I'm not arguing) and as N*E*R*D can certainly rate themselves just as highly. Wherever your 'roots' lie, be it indie, funk, hip-hop, or rock, this band span all boundaries and as such deserve to be taken seriously. 9/10

Nick James

web site and why not play the great N*E*R*D space invaders game - click here

 
 

 

The Divine Comedy - Absent Friends (Parlophone)

The eighth Divine Comedy album (I'm not including 'A Secret History'), can you believe it? Ok so you're a fan, have all the original copies and are sitting pretty with the expectation of just what to expect from this new release. Well fear not, because this is just what you expected from the self styled crooner, pure magic. Peal back the layers of Neil's new compositions and you will find stories that you can not only enjoy from the wonderful musical scores he and his number lay before you, but also find wonderment in the tales of such simplicity on first gaze, but that encourage further reading.

The music has a majesty that fans will not be surprised to hear, orchestral moments that don't compete, more play with the more traditional and a pace that drives you through the album with such ease that I found made 'repeat' not just a function, but more a practicality. All 11 tracks here have a differing appeal, but those moments I found particular favourites were not just the recently released 'Come Home Billy Bird', a natural choice as the first single, but also the tale of the lover scourned in 'Our Mutual Friend', I took a trip back to Saturday afternoon 'Bonanza' in the album's opening track, 'Absent Friends' and found perfect peace in the finale 'Charmed Life', with many more totally relevant moments in between.

I can't admit to having been a fan from the very beginning of Neil's career, but once a friend had introduced me, was sincerely 'sold'. Each of these numbers has something available to all and have no concern in proclaiming that if you hadn't been a fan or even aware of 'The Divine Comedy' before, this could well send you tumbling into the arms of the Irish gentlemen. Now I come to marking this album for consistency, musical awareness and shear appeal, what can I say, from the 8 that was to temper my gushing praise, to a very respectable 9, to my final score and one I can only really give this work of such great appeal. It isn't all those that have preseeded this release and I feel has tried something different, although not removing the 'Divine' from this 'Comedy'. 10/10

Nick James

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Stuffy/The Fuses - Join Me Or Die (Wrath Records)

Drowned In Sound said of this band "You get the intensity of Fugazi and Shellac, filtered through the uniquely crumbling mentalism of Cardiacs or XTC".

N: It's been pointed out to me that it's the bass driven qualities on the opener certainly, that this band have a calling to Pixies, but as all bands should be, we later discover that they are more complex than that. As caroline's vocals on "Waltz" possess shades of Lush. Like a good menu, this band have drawn on influences far and wide, as Terry Hall can be heard battling it out with Supergrass, and the kids across the back can be heard testing their new gear in their father's garage.

T: You've just nicked everything I was going to say! Bastard. I'd just like to add to that the blatantly evident inspiration of Pavement and maybe even the Durutti Column. Still, it all makes for a great CD. 8/10

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Hothouse Flowers - Into Your Heart (RubyWorks)

This is the first studio release the band has put out for seven years. Should be an interesting one...

N: Nice to hear this band back again, and I'll confess to this having been the soundtrack to my Valentines evening this year. I think it's their debut album I have on LP in a box somewhere (much to my guilt), but this is not the rip roaring "Don't Go', and its release, if anything, would have been better placed to coincide with the Valentines market. get the picture?

T: Yeah I can see that, and it's as soulful an album as you'd expect from the former chart heroes. Tracks evoke memories of the Rolling Stones at one of their most tender moments, Otis Redding and several other classic artistes throughout. I think respect for this band has probably grown since we last heard from them, and they have certainly delivered the goods here. 9/10

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Turin Brakes – Latenighttales (Whoa)

As far as compilation albums go, this really is a bloody good one!

The latest instalment of the Latenighttales series features a rather melancholy set of songs as picked by Olly and Gale from Turin Brakes.

Someone remind me to give these guys a ring next time I’m stuck for ideas putting a tape together to play in the car – this is marvellous stuff.

It’s a blinding way to kick off, with the dreamy “I feel like I’m drifting off on a boat into the warm summer night sea” feel of Nicolai Dungar’s “Last Night I Dreamt of Mississippi”, and then to follow that with John Barry’s seminal masterpiece “Midnight Cowboy” really was a stroke of genius!

It’s a pretty eclectic mix, yet the overriding impression is that of an immense serenity, be it JJ Cale’s beautiful “Magnolia”, the bluesy splendour of John Hammond’s “Dreamy Eyed Girl” or even the Silver Jews’ Pavement like rendition of “Send In the Clouds”.

I’m not usually a fan of various artists collections, but the Latenighttales series is making me seriously reconsider where I stand on that issue! My personal favourite here is Grant Green’s “A Walk in the Night”, a rather jazzy little instrumental number, and one I probably never would have heard of if it weren’t for Olly and Gale. Cheers guys, this is superb. 9/10

Tone E

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Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club – Be Yourself (Rubyworks)

Beginning with a track that sounds like a 1950’s version of Santana’s relatively recent hit “Smooth” but reinterpreted by a more up to the moment pop outfit, the band then start sounding like a latter day Bob Dylan on “Upside Down”.

After that we’re taken on a journey of tracks that sound remarkably reminiscent of Chris Rea, and there’s really not a great deal else I can say about it. It’s an album which is extremely strong at times, but then there are also several moments that seem to completely pass you by. What strikes me though, is that it is without a shadow of a doubt a lot better when you listen to it with the lights out. Hmmm…does this mean it’s “shagging music”? Well, maybe. I’ll let you know… 7/10

Tone E

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Grant Lee Phillips – Virginia Creeper (Cooking Vinyl)

I have to confess, I was a little perturbed when I first put this album on, having previously been very fond of Phillips’ former band Grant Lee Buffalo. It struck me as though the album was going to sound like a mish mash of second rate Dwight Yoakum tracks or Billy Ray Cyrus tunes! This seed of doubt was planted when the opening track “Mona Lisa” kicked in, and “Walking Memory” did little to derail my train of thought.

However, from “Lily-a-Passion” all the way through to the album’s finale, “Hickory Wind”, one overriding thought occurred to me – that this is probably the warmest, most heartfelt record you are likely to hear this year. Then everything just seems to click into place. In fact, the second time around, I even liked those two tracks that seemed so bothersome upon first listen!

Picture yourself driving through a desert, carefree and glowing with a youthful exuberance and you’ve got the picture. No hang on, scrub that last bit – picture yourself as a PASSENGER in that car, quite possibly with your ideal girl (or guy) at the wheel, hair blowing in the warm breeze.
The overall feel is of a time with no rules or restrictions, such is the beauty of so many of the tunes upon “Virginia Creeper”, and that folks, is about as apt a title as you can get. Put the album on “repeat” and become the most chilled out person you’ve ever known! 8/10

Tone E

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Obi – Diceman Lopez (Cooking Vinyl)

Leonard Cohen is alive and well and living inside Obi!

Well ok, maybe it’s just because I recently viewed “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”, but trust me, some of the more downbeat numbers do owe some kind of debt to the late great man here (actually Tone, I think you'll find the guy is still alive! - Editor). So it goes without saying that, similarly, there are several moments reminiscent of another deceased genius – Mr. Nick Drake.

Some accolades I’m sure you’ll agree, but there is an unmistakeable feel of those two throughout this excellent album.

Starting off like a German drinking song, “Fairground” transforms into a tune that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Levellers album.

The whole thing was written in the solitude of a little house in Southern France, where Obi frontman Damian Katkhuda armed himself with only a guitar and a Dictaphone. The result is a gorgeous blend of gentle melodies and intelligent foot tappers that would be a worthy addition to any music lover’s collection. 9/10

Tone E

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Deckard – Dreams of Dynamite and Divinity (Deckard)

Having garnered enough praise to have warranted their music being used on an episode of “Friends” and the American version of “Trigger Happy”, this Scottish band appears to be well and truly in the ascendancy, and it’s not hard to see why. Several of the tracks here are rather orchestral compositions, and grand ones at that. The one track that really caught my imagination was the moody and dark “We’re Aching”, though for some inexplicable reason it put me in mind of REM’s “Bang and Blame”. I have no idea why!

Having said all that though, there ARE less impressive moments here (not enough to complain too much about though) – “When Picking Fights” for example sounds like a weaker Suede track, and the chorus just comes across like a rockier version of “Every Breath You Take”. Still the memorable moments largely outnumber the more forgettable ones, and Deckard look as though they are going to be more than a force to be reckoned with over the course of the next few years.
As a loose comparison (and I MEAN loose), they do remind me a little bit of Muse, largely due to the theatrical build of many of the better tracks and singer Chris Gordon’s occasional falsetto vocals.

Still, the best compliment I can give this album is to say that I would have made a point of buying it if I hadn’t already been sent it for free (despite the fact that “Holy Rolling” uses the same opening guitar riff as Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love”!) 9/10

Tone E

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Puerto Muerto – See You in Hell (Fire Records)

Puerto Muerto have, inevitably, been compared with the White Stripes in the not too distant past, but this is largely down to the fact that they are a male/female duo rather than any musical similarities. Unlike Jack and Meg’s sibling rivalry however, this couple are a husband and wife team.
Rather surprisingly, Tim kelley and Christa Meyer have chosen to open their new album with what I would say is by far the weakest track on it! Thankfully they follow this with the beautifully morose, PJ Harvey on beta blockers style number “Tennessee”, and it’s pretty much all guns blazing from thereon.

“Hangman’s Song” evokes memories of Violent Femmes’ “Country Death Song”, whilst “Babylon” is reminiscent of UB40 when they were still goog (no, honestly, they WERE good once!), and yes, I guess you COULD compare “Walking Boss” with Jack and Meg if you really wanted to!
Opening track “Atlantic City” and the truly, truly awful “Mango” aside, this is an impressively self assured album with some infectious tunes and fascinating lyrics. And I guess 8 great tracks and 2 duff ones is a reasonable turnaround! 8/10

Tone E

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The Belles – Omerta (Eat Sleep)

Kicking off with a track that sounds like it was trimmed from the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” but with “Eleanor Rigby” type harmonies was an interesting idea, especially as the song (“So, I Sing”) is less than a minute long.

For the most part though, the Belles’ debut album sounds more like Teenage Fanclub in a good mood rather than any of their cited influences. Those artists that the band champion are Neil Young and Neil Finn, though I can see more of a relation to the latter artist than that of the “Southern Man” himself. Apart from those two, Christopher Tolle and Jake Caldwell are also big fans of Paul McCartney and Paul Westerbery, though personally I don’t feel this reflects in the album either.

It’s a decent enough release, and I’d probably say it’s one of those “chillers” you put on when you’re stretched out on a sofa getting some much needed “loafing” in.

However, if you’re like me, and crave a little more excitement in your music, you may well feel you want to shove some rockets up these guys’ arses sometimes. 7/10

Tone E

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Haven – All For a Reason (Radiate)

When Haven made their big breakthrough with that “Say Something” track a few years ago, I remember thinking it was an ok single, but not particularly exciting and certainly not one I’d consider buying. Well, nothing’s really changed then – Haven have always reminded me of bands like the Lighthouse Family or Travis; you know, the kind of outfit that would be featured on Des O’Connor’s show, or Richard and Judy. Music that appeals to grannies as well as to the younger generations.

For those of us that prefer something a little more cutting edge though, it falls woefully short. I hate slagging off ANYTHING that Johnny Marr has had a hand in, but whilst his band the Healers are different and exciting, Haven, sadly, are not. 5/10

Tone E

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Crackout – Oh No! (Hut Recordings)

Two bands leap instantly to mind when you first hear this band. One analogy is that Crackout sound like a slightly heavier version of The Cure, and the other is that they bear more than a passing resemblance to the little known Kettering band The Junket (“Who?” I hear you cry) – No matter. I liked both of those groups a lot, so they’re halfway there already.

Anyway, the album kicks off with Crackout at their Robert Smith like best on the insanely catchy “Out Of Our Minds”, then takes us through some more unusual efforts such as the gritty “Insect Song”, several seemingly Idlewild inspired tunes, the odd nod to British Sea Power and many tracks akin to that previously mentioned Midlands band.

Summing up then, this is a very enjoyable listen, if not always being entirely infectious. But go in with an open mind and you’ll find this delivers nicely. 8/10

Tone E

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Ooops!: One's that we've (almost) missed

 

Oxia - 24 Heures (Pias/Goodlife) (Released February 9th 2004)

Oxia is becoming well known to us here at AD after coming to our attention through the success of his stable mate, Kiko. This album therefore promises to be a deft selection of electro, techno and house infused sounds with 'float like a butterfly' production and 'sting like a bee' beats and bass.

The first track 'Le Temps' is a 5 minute plus electro gem. Surprisingly gentle it is a quality atmospheric tune. 'Reflection' is a nice little tune but nothing to write home about. 'Intuition' seems to sum up the album with its whole feel and sound. Its funky, head bobbing stuff but not really a true dancefloor sound. This is more chill out/home listening techno than brainstorming techno.
All the tracks are heavy electro tinged with what sounds like harp strings in the background. 'TNN' is very much the same. Not that I am saying its a bad thing. It shows the depth and strength of Oxia's musicical knowledge. There is no need to blow your tits off with raging tech house. This album is more considered and perhaps therefore more personal that commercial.

'Flashback' lifts the tempo slightly but we then return to 'Never Forget'. Electro funk with those synthy vocals and those now familiar harps strings. This is great though as it takes me back to the electro days of the eighties(showing my age a bit huh!).
Unfortunately, at this point, I started tire of the same treatments on each track being presented in slightly different ways. 'The Night' lifts the tempo again but it's just another version of 'Flashback' to me. 'House Nation - the rework' is a great finale, a tough stomper with a really funky hook.

All in all, a top notch first album from Oxia. I look forward to witnessing if and how his personal style will develop from here. 7/10

Nic Caesar

 
 

 

Fabric 14 - Stacey Pullen (Fabric) (Released January 26th 2004)

A vibrant mix compilation of some class tunes. The mixing is tight and a little different from the average. Tunes worthy of mention are Shuffleheads-Rollcall(Asad Rivsi mix), Men with Sticks-3rd Eye, OPM - The Drum, and Sound Groove-Flookin. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Fila Brazilia - Another Fine Mess (Azuli/Whoa)

A quality mix CD from one of the industrys household names. Steve Cobby and Dave McSherry have been making and mixing music since the mid nineties and have been known for their eclectic tastes.
This compilation mix demonstrates their flexibility with slick and sassy beats and rythmns, jazzy hooks and samba melodies. Very cool, intelligent dance music not necassarily the bounciest tunes but funky head bobbin material. Out at the end of January this is the perfect CD to take you from winter to spring with a kick in your step. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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