Album Reviews: April 2003


Thunder - Shooting At The Sun (STC Recordings)

Is there room in 2003 for this updated 'Whitesnake' rock, I ask myself? Sure upon the release of the band's debut album 'Back Street Symphony' back in 1989 I was sold, catching the group as they performed the University circuit (twice if I remember correctly), but should I be expecting more 'bells and whistles' or be content that these guys are doing what they know best.

A reunion at last years 'Monsters Of Rock Festival' was the driving force behind this latest release, that see's the band marketing their polished, but rough around the edges rock'n'roll to a loyal audience ready to give the guy's a chance. I have perhaps been immersed in music other than this variety for too long now, but give Danny and his boys a chance and I admit that any thoughts of cliched 'Status Quo' were banished as its threads grew and I once again learned to rock.

I should say though that shades of 'Plant and Page' were evident and much to my surprise 'Difford and Tilbrook', quite where that came from I'm unsure, but it was there. Why, oh why did Danny Bowles have to shave his locks off though, was it the receding hairline, or as photographic evidence suggests a paling covering to his scalp that sparked this course of action. Great lyrics and musical arrangement as you would expect. I have to say that I found this is a grower, but is best served loud in an open space. 7/10

Nick James

web site



Madonna - American Life (Maverick)

I try to tell it how it is, but after hyping this in an earlier update, on finally getting to hear the album I can only say that 'our' Maddie would appear to have found herself not just straying, but sitting firmly and squarely in the territory of 2.4 children!

She's lost her edge and produced an album that I found myself unable to listen to and enjoy, it just ended up annoying me! Ok maybe to call it torture would be pushing it a little too far, but how far is too far? For me this really doesn't work, yeah ok so she's a 'nice' lady, well that's as she came across on the recent Jonathan Ross special, once again hyped until his sincerity bled, but the musical edge has been lost in place of 'cumphy' and 'cosy' and I recommend that nothing be given to the 'Che Guava' persona she appears to have adopted on the album's sleeve. This just appeared over confident for an album that made up for any loss of musical and lyrical integrity, by adding pumping beats and lots of bass to compensate.

Yeah sure it had its moments, but these, few as there were, just lost their appeal by going on too long, with the exception of the theme to 'Die Another Day', it had the backing of a great motion picture though. And in conclusion, as they say "No press is bad press" and sure this is going to sell and add to the Chicone/Riche coffers, but I really don't think this is going to be remembered as her 'shining moment'. What we do have though is that controversial video. 3/10

Nick James

For playback of video clips RealOne player required.

web site



OK Go - OK Go (Capitol)

There's been a lot of hype surrounding OK Go lately both in the UK and the US and the band have earned a reputation of being one of America's most irresistible live acts.

N: An onslaught of audible chaos, the guys from OK Go lay before their audience in blunt stabs a gutar driven rock.

T: Quite an extraordinary comparison I know, but they sound like a more alternative version of the J Geils Band at times!

N: I would have said more a la Wannadies myself.

T: Anyway to sum up, they've got some great tunes, fun and youth, and some nutsqueezingly good future singles to ponder over. 8/10

web site



Nicolas Matar - Sundance (Journeys by DJ)

As a resident DJ for Pacha in Ibiza and recently having opened Cielo in Manhattan, Nicolas Matars' credentials certainly read well. The Sundance mix reflects a sexy and soulful sound with some of the most beautiful sounding tracks I have heard for a while. A very cosmopolitan collection with tracks from England, Brazil, USA and Spain to name a few.
Musically this collection is a refreshing combination of quality grooves and female vocals which have more than slight overtones of the Ibiza and particularily Pacha vibe. Sensual vocals, rolling, funky basslines and an eclectic mix of bongos, guitar strings, pianos, etc, very cool!
My only dissappointment is the mixology!!! The mixes just don't quite hit the mark. They aren't as tight as you might expect for a DJ with such credentials and there is little imagination or creativity used in the blending of one track to another. I am sure Nicolas Matar is capable of more challenging mixes but it seems he has played safe here.
Nevertheless a quality collection of gorgeously slick tunes! Released on May 19th, get a copy - the tunes are worth it!
Nic Caesar



Gold Chains - Young Miss America ([Pias] Recordings)
Gold Chains returns with a full length LP following his single release of 'The Game' previously reviewed by Atomicduster. The album promised more anarchistic and provocative lyrics, cooked up with elements of nearly every genre of music you can think off! Did it deliver.... well to a certain extent yes. The lyrics are provactive and musically it utilises a wealth of influences, but as a whole I was sadly left a bit disappointed.
The first track, Code Red, begins with a quality production of breaks and beats laced with casio-esque chords and a rather catchy chorus. Unfortunatley for me there is too much of the same to follow, bar one or two exceptions.
The Game is a quality track as I have said before and really does highlight the brilliance of the production and lyrical content. The first track that really rings true is Much Currency Flows. It is a topical socio-political commentary with poetic lyrics united seamlessly with less frantic, relfective sounds and an overall sinister feel. Real quality!
Nada, the upcoming single (see single reviews), begins with a superb concoction of Bollywood dramatics and orchestral strings, but leaves me wanting more of that as it disapates to sound much like the previous track. Revolution and Break or be Broken, unfortunatley offer more of the same quality production and inspiring lyrical content but it just doesnt give you anything new...untill.... you come the final two tracks on the LP.
Citizens Nowhere
begins like a Gold Chains barn dance stomper, with country styled guitar licks and ticking electro beats. It then leads you blindly into a late seventies punked up chorus, which reminded me strangley of early Prince and the Revolution material!? A female vocal full of attitude compliments GC's lyrical style. Finally a track with its own identity!!
Then to cap it all off Lets Get It O
n. A nice techno styled intro is then betrayed by a big brash ZZ Top rock riff and uptempo beats. Really characterfull female vocal balances GC's style perfectly and the track builds into a sexy electroclash trip with euro-pop synths to boot. A  track which (if you will excuse the phrase theft) does reach parts that the other tracks can not.!!
Overall I do not dislike the album but I wanted more variety. I would like to hear the lyrical and production talent that evidently exists, take some of its genius ideas (intro to Nada for example) and develop them further.
Quality underground gear but less of the same please! 5/10
Nic Caesar

web site



The Burn - Sally O'Mattress (Virgin)

The Face reckons that The Burn are the band most likely to make an uproar in 2003 and the NME and The Fly tend to agree. What do we reckon?

T: Well it's good, I'll grant you that, but I think the "band most likely to" tag is perhaps pushing the boat out a little.

N: I think that tag is used too easily to emphasise how much a writer thinks of an artist. A cop out maybe, but something I can't say we haven't all been guilty of at one time or another. My cocked hat description of this band is one of early Verve and Ian Brown. An easily arrived at description that I'm not making any snipe at, as to get a presentation this good takes a band of some class.

T: Summed it up in a nutshell. 8/10

web site



Dan Bern - Fleeting Days
(Messenger/Cooking Vinyl)

I can't possibly better the quote on the press release here for an intro, so here it is - "What does the fiercest, funniest, most tender-hearted folk-rocker on the scene do when he grows up? If it's Dan Bern, he makes "Fleeting Days" and caroms his scathing free associative takes on pop, politics, sex and culture to a new level".

T: What was it you were saying about certain artists having purchased Bob Dylan's greatest hits earlier on? Then again, various other tracks sound like Joe Jackson, Crowded House and Steve Harley at numerous points.

N: You forget to mention Tom Petty and Elvis Costello. This is not an album to pander to any passing phase and fashion, but then again, something tells me Dan never set out to do this. By no means a classic, but this is a fine album that I'm certain will stand tall in years to come. 7/10

web site



The Durutti Column - Someone Else's Party (Artful)

"This is the first album I've recorded that I actually think is worth putting out in the world". So claims Vinni Reilly, mastermind behind 25 years of the Durutti Column.

T: Apparently the 14 songs on this album evolved out of the sadness Vinni felt after his mother fell ill and eventually died. It's fair to say that you actually FEEL this album rather than hear it. A moving, emotional experience that I'm sure his mother would have cried her eyes out at if she'd heard it.

N: This really is an album of moments. "Great wide expanse of emotions" is the description I arrived at before even knowing the story behind the recording. For an artist to convey such feeling in just his music really is quite something else.

T: It's not an easy album, but it certainly is stunning. 10/10

web site



Ian McCulloch - Slideling (Cooking Vinyl)

Well if he didn't need an introduction in the singles reviews then he doesn't need one in the albums section either does he?

N: Is this just me or are the opening bars of the first track here Ian's homage to Ash's "Shining Light"?

T: It's certainly very reminiscent of it anyway. 25 odd years in the music business seems to have done Ian no harm whatsoever. There are some wonderful tracks on this album, as we've become accustomed to, and if ever you're in a karma like "completely at one with yourself and nature" mood, this is the perfect album to play to make yourself feel even better. 8/10

web site



Athlete - Vehicles and Animals (Parlophone)

Britain's answer to Pavement? The new Steely Dan? or Beta Band's little brothers? All these have been real comparisons by various media folk.

T: To be frank, the vocals STILL remind me of David Essex more than anybody else, but, while I've never really understood the enormous media attention this band have been receiving, hearing the album all together it tends to make a little more sense.

N: Would you like a prune?

T: What?

N: They help with your digestion.

T: Ah, is this something to do with digesting the music?

N: I like to think so, but I CAN see where the earlier comparison has come from. Their offering is one for a more mature palate and most certainly is borne from a seventies perspective. 7/10



Hard-ons - Very Exciting (Bad Taste)

Invited to join the Foo Fighter, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Ramones on tour, the Hard-ons even ended up being joined on stage by Dave Grohl. The new album is out in early May.

T: Certainly a bit of Dinosaur jr in there anyway. Then it all goes a bit Death Metal for my liking.

N: It would seem this band definitely appear to be an industry band, but I'm afraid they do nothing for me.

T: I'm going to sound like someone who doesn't get out much and sits by the fire in his pipe and slippers while the dog fetches his papers, but they'd be a lot better if they didn't shout so much.

N: Down spot. 5/10



Celine Dion - One Heart (Columbia)

Following the 8 million plus selling album, Celine released her new album in March, but we ignored it back then...

T: Ok, I admit that she doesn't warble as much as she normally would on this album, which certainly makes it more tolerable, but I'm afraid she'll be struggling to ever make it into my good books after that bloody Titanic song. Well in fact ALL of her previous songs. I got bored of this after about three minutes (pretty good for me) and, as she's got a song called "Naked" on the album, started scanning the sleeve in search of nude pics but to no avail. Anyway if you like Celine Dion you'll still like her, and if you don't, well the album would make a good coaster anyway.

N: A girlie artist torn to shreds by the South Park crew. Surely it's more than she's French-canadian! I've got it, it's because she's just not terribly original. A cover of "I Drove All Night" that crucifies any of the former incarnations, and a tune that takes in vain Prince's "When Doves Cry" just do nothing to change my opinion, but let's cut to the quick, this will be huge - number one, win awards, gush gush gush (although maybe only in Marie Claire). 3/10

web site



Madnomad - Tamper Evident (Sugar Shack)

Apparently, "Madnomad is the look on your parents faces when you accidentally catch them fucking". Hmmm, interesting.

T: Whatever Frank Black (or Black Francis as he was then) used for his vocal on "Planet Of Sound" certainly seems to be in evidence here on at least a couple of tracks. But you know, it does seem to give the album an extra edge to it, adding a much needed intensity.

N: An album that swerve from experimentation to utter insanity. Hard to comprehend, although totally absorbing. 8/10

web site



Placebo - Sleeping With Ghosts (Hut)

Placebo's last album "Black Market Music" was deservedly very well received by the majority of the music press, so it is with some anticipation we have waited for this, the new one from Brian Molko and co.

T: The album begins with the best opening instrumental since "Cecilia Ann" on the Pixies "Bossanova" album. Thereafter, we are once again treated to some uplifting power pop with shades of extreme tenderness.

N: This does echo shades of earlier Placebo releases, but their calibre shouldn't be dismissed from this comment. I like Brian's intelligent lyricall view, and placed alongside this powerpop as you say, is as close to a perfect view as you are going to get.

T: Another winner - unless of course you read the NME. 9/10


web site



Bettie Serveert - Log 22 (PIAS Recordings)

The follow up to "Private Suit" harks back to the early days of "Palomine" and was written and produced by Carol Van Dyk and Peter Visser.

T: This sounds rather like a well polished Go-Go's album.

N: An album that echoes shades of East Coast rock a decade or so ago, but this time a more subtle strain to its candy coated guitar pop.

T: And there's certainly a strong Sleeper type feel waiting to jump out at you sometimes on this album.

N: It's the Juliana Hatfield Three that I was looking for myself. Lisa Germano, Kristin Hersch...

T: You might well be looking mate but...but...oh bollocks I can't think of anything funny to say.

N: I wouldn't dream of anything indiscreet myself.

T: I always do... 7/10

web site



Ooberman - Hey, Petrunko (Rotodsisc)

It's kind of unusual these days to come across a modern day concept album. I'd also say it's one hell of a risk, especially when you've built up as strong a fanbase as this band unquestionably have over the last couple of years. There's always the danger of such an album ending up sounding too contrived or twee. Ooberman have somehow managed to overcome this eventuality however, and have produced a stunning record this is haunting, vibrantly original and amazingly diverse. There's not much evidence of what "Hey Petrunko" is about to turn into though, beginning as it after the opening prelude with "Bluebell Morning" and "Running Girl" - two as-close-to-perfect pop songs as you are likely to find right now. It's only after this that we are treated to weird and wonderful treats like the theatrical "Where Did I Go Wrong?", the passionately fierce oddity that is "Snakedance" and the incredibly sad "First Day Of The Holidays". The whole album has an overall feel reminiscent of Floyd (although it doesn't actually SOUND anything like them). At various times throughout, you feel you are being sucked into an Edward Scissorhands type of fairytale and, once you are there, it's difficult to leave. Trust me, start playing it and you'll end up playing the whole damn thing. There are tracks that sound like they've been written by Richard Thompson, some that sound like an attempt to rewrite "Grease" with a head full of weed ("Hand That Gets Burnt"), and some that seem to be classic incidental film music stretched into a three minute or more track ("Open The Hatch"). Regardless of this - or perhaps even owing to it - Ooberman have created something wonderful here. 9/10

Tone E

web site



The Kills - Keep On Your Mean Side (Domino)

Funny old band The Kills are. On the one hand you have a group who released one of the best singles of the year with the dirty, short but not sweet "Fried My Little Brains", and have recorded some fantastic tracks that could almost be a tribute to Patti Smith ("Pull A U"), and the Canned Heat like "Fuck The People" has both an arrogant swagger and that anti-establishment attitude that is crying out to be injected into some of our current indie "stars". On the other hand, attempts to emulate the latter track elsewhere on the album ultimately end up sounding like Mud, or The Sweet...or, at worst, Status Quo. Don't believe me? Well, just listen to "Hitched" and tell me you didn't feel like sticking your hands on your hips then shaking them to the floor and back every couple of seconds! Maybe I'm being a little unfair, as most of this album is filled with top tunes - believe it or not, "Monkey 23" is quite beautiful in a fucked up kind of way, but when the band HAS snuck an album filler on, I guess the only thing you can compare it to is when you were a kid and got shitloads of great presents at Christmas from people you never even knew existed, and you'd left the big present from Auntie Nerys to the end...which turned out to be a bloody Soap-On-a-Rope! That's it - an album full of remote control tanks and Subbuteo sets, but spoiled by a few too many Soaps on Ropes. 7/10

Tone E

web site



Various Artists - Delicatessen 5 (Cooking Vinyl)

Just perusing through the acts here, Cooking Vinyl's roster reads like a roll call of so many of my favourite bands from both past and present. For example we have Frank Black (and the Catholics), Ian McCulloch, Gordon Gano, Billy Bragg and Ryan Adams to name but a handful. The label's been around getting on for 20 years now, and when you see the calibre of the acts featured, it's easy to see why. Now, we at Atomicduster decided a while back that ten out of ten was not permitted for compilation albums, and there are two or three tracks herein that don't really cut the mustard for me I'm afraid - I can't get excited about The Mendoza Line, talented though they evidently are. Same goes for Mary Lorson and Billy Cote sadly, and Jackie Leven's music is a bit too polished for my liking - and too laid back (and that's coming from a writer who has been told on many occasions that if he were any more laid back he'd be horizontal)! However, on the plus side, ageing folkie Richard Thompson really comes up trumps with "One Door Opens", as do the Apples In Stereo with their Only Ones like anthem "Please". On the whole, a great collage of class music, and a top introduction to Cooking Vinyl. 8/10

Tone E



Gabrielle's Wish - Portal (Path)

According to the band themselves, their music is "early Factory, based in Detroit, a little middle-Europe experimentation in Manchester, hard, urban electronica and dead smart too". Ok then...

T: Well there's no denying their influences anyway...

N: This album is like a breath of fresh air to my ears. Early Factory is about right. Vocals that contain the spirit of Curtis, but a few more references I made when first listening here were Hussey circa "Mask", late Poppies and without a doubt Killing Joke.

T: Oh yeah I can definitley hear Killing Joke in here, as well as very early Heaven 17. Certainly well worth a spin.

N: You won't be surprised to learn that I consider this the best listen I've experienced in a while. 9/10

web site



Burning Brides - Fall Of The Plastic Empire (V2)

The Philadelphia three piece follow some rave reviews for their "Plank Of Fire" single with a debut album that's already had some quarters wetting themselves with excitement.

N: Certainly early Stooges screams at you first contact, the music so in yer face, fast paced, and even a little sinister maybe. But on some of the offerings here, I can almost see Iggy Pop's emaciated frame stood before me.

T: Musically, they remind me of Bobby Gillespie's initial offerings with the Primals just as much as anybody else - everything up to and including "Ivy Ivy Ivy" I'm talking about here. A little something to get down and dirty to. 8/10

web site



The Vanity Set - Little Stabs Of Happiness
(Cargo UK)

Written in a rat-infested basement on NYC's Lower East Side in the weeks directly after 9/11, you'd hardly expect the Vanity Set's second album to be too much of an upbeat affair, so what's the verdict?

T: Nick Cave meets our unsigned friend Muleskinner Jones.

N: To me this is the aforementioned morose one on a West End Stage in a production of "Phantom Of The Opera", meets Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge". But do you not find it odd that merely the percussion section of The Bad Seeds should suggest to both of us a Nick Cave production.

T: Well if it ain't broke...

N: Quite. 6/10

web site



Nightmares On Wax - (Late Night Tales)

Having been around seemingly longer than socks, Nightmares On Wax return with a new mix album where the likes of Ian Brown, Quincy Jones and Dusty Springfield are given a makeover by George Evelyn et al.

T: Aah. Just gone midnight after a drunken summer evening culminating at some cheesy club or other. This album is the perfect antidote to that. It's undeniably got that "Been up all night and am now watching the sunrise" feel to it.

N: But is that watching the sunrise, or watching Central TV's Jobfinder?

T: Surely you can't think this is boring though? It's so chilled I could drink it!

N: No I've just found myself watching Jobfinder because it's there. It moves...occasionally, and if you've drunk enough coffee, the pretty lights flash. This is one bonged out experience! 8/10

web site



Fulc - Biting Insomnia (Stunted)

Having had lavish praised heaped upon them by at least a handful of major press hacks, including us of course, FULC's debut album has been widely anticipated by all and sundry. With good reason?

T: While this band will always be listed under the "rock" section in record stores throughout this country and probably whichever other ones they are successful in (and they will be), the fact remains that FULC are so much more than just that. Neckbreaking killer riffs from Rik, passionate vocals from Duane, and a solid backbone courtesy of drummer Mark and bassist Kris make this act one of the most engaging bands around at present. See them live and buy their album. To me, they're nothing short of astonishing.

N: Are these guys a UK Soundgarden? Plenty of power chords with the emphasis on "power". Duane certainly has an effortless knack of sliding his vocal arrangements to suit his cohorts' presentation. But I would have to observe that the further you dig then the more you will find, and although at first, comprehension might not be easy, in the music I should add, the rich patterns will find you all the same the further you progress.

T: Can I say "astonishing" again? It would have been 10 out of 10 if I'd marked it on my own. 8/10

web site


© Copyright 2000/7 Atomicduster - all rights reserved