Album Reviews: April 2005

 

Hal - Hal (Rough Trade) 25/04/2005

"Prepare yourself for an absolute gem of an album...", I borrow this opening line from the press that accompanied this album and after having listened to it's inner most thoughts feel there is no better way of putting it. An Irish quintet who themselves borrow from the music of their ancestry in a quite unashamed fashion, whilst at the same time melding obvious influences from 'The Beach Boys', 'Lennon and McCartney' and 'Marc Bolan' to stunning effect.

Like fellow countrymen 'The Thrills', HAL produce music filled with such hope and an ease of presentation that I'm sure you'll find most uplifting and like taking a swift dip into an ice cold pool, is refreshing to the extreme, but then are able settle back into your comfortable chair, the warmth of the music allowing you to enjoy the rest of this album in comfort.

What is amazing is just how clean and uncluttered this album sounds, probably down to the pairing of Hal and their producer Ian Stanley, who takes to the master console on most of this album. This is the case on the most part with the exception of the track 'Play The Hits', where an obvious rockier swagger is lent to the sound by Edwin Collins, with additional production lent by Ian Stanley, perhaps to rein in what might otherwise have not seated quite so perfectly with the rest of the album.

Sure enough there are obvious glittering gems on this album, with other slightly rougher cut stones with which help to temper what might be too high an experience, but one thing is for sure this is a sparkling album, 45 minutes spent in the presence of a higher force. 9/10

Nick James

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The Glitterati – The Glitterati (Atlantic) 25/04/2005

There’s no doubting the fact that the phrase “cock rock” could almost have been invented purely for The Glitterati. In fact, probably more apt would be the phrase “big fat sweaty cock rock”…

The whole thing’s been produced by Mike Clink of Guns ‘n’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction” fame, and it wouldn’t be a great surprise to me if The Glitterati were filling stadiums on a Slash and Axl scale over the next couple of years.

As for me, although I’ve never really been a huge fan of big hair and Spandex, there IS something about Paul Gautrey’s outfit that appeals. Maybe it’s that extra grittiness that comes across in such tunes as recent single “You Got Nothing On Me” or “Back In Power”. Or perhaps it’s the way they transpose themselves from a poppy INXS style track to a glorious Judas Priest style shoutalong on “Do You Love Yourself?”

Whatever it is, The Glitterati certainly have it in spades, and surely have a very bright future ahead. 7/10

Tone E

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The Yards – The Yards (Exotica / Snapper Music) 18/04/2005

Poor old Chris Helm. He’s currently suffering from over zealous interviewers asking him if and when The Seahorses are going to reform, when all he really wants to talk about is his new band, The Yards. Ah well, now you know what John Squire felt like Chris…

If you ask me, his former group was hideously neglected and underappreciated by the “cool” music press, but it’s clear for all to see that The Yards are a far better proposition – always soulful, sometimes astonishingly effective in the way they rock (“The Devil Is Alive and Well and in DC”) and often wonderfully bluesy in the same way The Band did it back in the late sixties (see “Only Myself to Blame” and “Superhuman” for example, the latter of which is a bit like Robbie Robertson’s outfit performing with Radiohead).

The Yards have taken the best bits from their favourite late sixties / early seventies bands and used it to their advantage by giving it all a very modern production. As a result we have a very strong debut indeed. 8/10

Tone E

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Mary Lorson & Saint Low – Realistic (Cooking Vinyl) 18/04/2005

Knowing that Mary Lorson had a cancer scare, being diagnosed and successfully treated for a growth in her breast back in the autumn of 2003 makes this album seem all the more profound. It’s hard not to be touched by its warmth, and the human element is there in such richness that it comes across as though Mary has embraced all aspects of her own life, having been reminded of the brevity of our own existence.

When “Wait For the Sun” kicks in, it’s rather like Everything But the Girl’s “Idlewild” era, crossed with Swing Out Sister and The Beautiful South circa “Rotterdam” musically. Most of the album thereafter is slower and more like a lazy sun drenched summer day, where the bright golden rays caress your body and everyone is happy and carefree.

Leaving my hippy tendencies for a moment though, in summation this is a very poignant and moving album, and if your eyes don’t start to well up at least ONCE when you first hear it, you are quite clearly deranged and need locking up. Psycho. 8/10

Tone E

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Fischerspooner – Odyssey (EMI) 11/04/2005

This is a really great album, especially for those of us that are into music with a broader soundscape. This album combines the best of electronica with its synchronised synths and drum machines, as well as tough guitar riffs and punk attitudes. It all feels so natural nothing appears to be contrived, it all just works together to create a classic sounding album straight of the top shelf. Its dirty and gritty and at the same time, gentle and moving.

The first track ‘Just let go’ is there first single release from this album (see single reviews) and is out now with a great remix version that the like of Too Many DJs and Pete Tong are hammering in the clubs. A great start and it goes on and on in this vein.

I would like to pull out more tracks worthy of special mention but is the case, as with all great albums it’s impossible to pick out just one. Its not the sort of album that will be a huge popular success but one that people will listen to over and over again and it will become a soundtrack to their lives, a modern classic!

The best collection of tracks from one artist, on one album this year! 9/10

Nic Caesar

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I Am Kloot – Gods and Monsters (Echo) 11/04/2005

I’m not sure what it is about I Am Kloot, but they seem to be one of those band that I LIKE but can never bring myself to LOVE.

New album “Gods and Monsters” is a case in point, as it seems to veer from the utmost brilliance and the frustratingly mundane.

For instance, the title track here is one of the best tunes I have heard in a long time, coming across like a collaboration between Joe Strummer and Peter Gabriel, and the gentle but splendid “The Stars Look Familiar” is straight out of a sixties songbook.
On the flipside, tracks like “Stray” and “An Ordinary Girl” kind of detract from the absolute beauty of instrumental “Hong Kong Lullaby” or the cheeky intelligence of the Stan Getz like “Dead Men’s Cigarettes”.

What I WILL say though is that I reckon if I took all the best tracks from the band’s eponymous debut album and placed them alongside all of the highlights from “Gods and Monsters”, you’d have one of the greatest albums of all time.

As it is, it’s worth buying purely for those flashes of genius. 7/10

Tone E

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VHS or Beta - Night On Fire (Virgin) 11/04/2005

Well, we both agree that we like the name of the band...but what about the music?

N: Quite familiar?

T: Yep. Yet ANOTHER band that sounds like The Cure. Seems to be a huge glut of them at the moment; however if you're going to strive to sound like anyone, Robert Smith and co are probably as good a place as any to start.

N: But I'm unsure that sounding like someone else, however convincingly, and with a top drawer name, is quite enough...

T: They've actually started sounding like Duran Duran now...

N: But he hasn't started singing yet!

T: Sorry, I just have my "early eighties head" on at the moment.

N: You're not the only one. These are either the bastard offspring of John Taylor and Danielle Dax, or their parents spent every Friday and Saturday night during the eighties down at the Roxy. 6/10

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The Blue Van - The Art of Rolling (TVT Records) IMPORT 05/04/2005

With their name being derived from the vehicle known in Denmark as the one that collects the mentally ill, this Scandinavian band have released this 12 track album as their debut.

T: They'd have fitted in at Woodstock, there's no doubt about that...

N: A very authentic sound comes with this band. It's psychedelic sixties through and through. From Ham organ to production to their vintage jeans. Lively and entertaining, the number of compositions I've expected to hear another song entirely as each new one starts, I've lost count.

T: Pretty soulful R&B stuff (in the true sense of the phrase, as opposed to what passes for it nowadays), it's an easily accessible album, though I have to wonder if they're 35 years too late...

N: In answer to that, all they need to do is resurrect Hendrix and their destiny will be assured. 7/10

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Hed Kandi – Twisted Disco (Hed Kandi) 28/03/2005

Another great compilation CD from the funky, disco house kings. This selection has a touch more grit to the beats but is still sassy sexy vocal house.

A wide selection of people friendly tracks includes hits like ‘Right about now’ by Mousse T, ‘Flashdance’ by Deep Dish and ‘Rocker’ by Alter Ego. Others to look out for are Tall Paul, Antoine Clamaran and Lamb.

Another one for those summer gatherings!! 9/10

Nic Caesar

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The Explosion – Black Tape (Virgin) 28/03/2005

Although the album begins extremely strongly – albeit sounding exactly like the early years of Manic Street Preachers – with the fine tracks “Deliver Us” and “Filthy Insane” (the latter of which is an amusingly dirty belter of a tune), after this it tends to go off in something of a downward spiral.

That’s not to say there are any really “bad” tracks, but an awful lot of them are a bit too catchy in a “Simple Plan” kind of way – punk with a small p…or teenypunk if you prefer.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, as it’s blatantly obvious that The Explosion owe a lot more to the shouty, “proper” punk choruses of the late seventies than they do to the likes of Green Day. If they weren’t fans of the previously mentioned Welsh band though, I’d be more than a tad surprised!

I think it’s one of those “lucky dip” CDs again – dip into it every now and again and you’ll be rewarded most times, but if you delve in too often, it’s easy to get fed up with. 4/10

Tone E

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Stereo Sushi – Teriyaki (Hed Kandi) 21/03/2005

Holy Wasabi!! What a good compilation CD! If you like your funky, soulful house music you will be stuffed to the brim after this lot. This compilation is two CDs full of top quality house from living legends like Masters at Work, Eric Morillo, Jay-J and Seamus Haji, the cream of U.S. and international house music.

The only critique would be if you like this sort of music but not in such large quantities! There is a lot of the same style of house in one place. If you like it, its great, but to listen to it all you either have to love it or really be in the mood for it.

One thing I can assure you of is very high quality summer party music, this will please soul loving chicks and the head bobbin boys. Check out Bongo Lovers, Morillo and Tim Heijst for the best tracks! 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Ocean Colour Scene - A Hyperactive Workout For the Flying Squad (Sanctuary) 21/03/2005

Ocean Colour Scene's 7th album (and when you say it like that you can begin to feel the passage of time slipping through your fingers), has, on this latest from the band, Paul Weller and Jools Holland being seconded to play on the track 'Waving Not Drowning', and is described as "a feelgood record that takes inspiration from the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Lou Reed, U2 and Scott Walker", so nothing too specific then...

T: You could have been forgiven for expecting Ocean Colour Scene to run away with their tails between their legs after being publicly lambasted by certain quarters of the music press after their "big" singles ("The Day We Caught the Train" and "The Riverboat Song", namely) but no, this band has shown it really has grown stronger since. Perhaps it's best that they got their "pop" period out of the way earlier, as they've evolved since and become a well respected set of musicians in their own right. Sometimes this album gets so soulful it almost sounds like it could have been on Motown!

N: I have to say that being there from the early days of this group and their uncharted single, "Sway", I'd always taken offence somewhat that they'd dispatched their "baggy roots" in favour of the sharp suited Mod movement, but on revisiting their debut album recently, I discovered they were actually there all the time, and the "baggy" just related to the t-shirt Simon Fowler once wore on a Sunday morning whilst washing the car...

T: Didn't you hear me? I TOLD you they caught the train...

N: Hmmm...a little bit leftfield there...

T: It sounds nothing LIKE Leftfield! Anyway, it's the sort of thing that would accompany a summer barbecue very well. Although obviously you'd have to eat veggie sausages if you're coming to mine.

N: Ummm, is that your fake barbecue? But returning to the music for a moment, I can't help feeling that this could easily be described as blueprint Ocean Colour Scene.

T: Fair point there. 7/10

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Daft Punk – Human After All (Virgin/EMI) 14/03/2005

MMMM! Not 100% convinced with this the first time I listened to it and this is because I think it’s a big shift away from most people know of as Daft Punk. This album is a lot tougher, rawer and certainly more experimental than their last offering.

Perhaps this shift is a response to some of the criticism they received for the last album, suggesting that it was a commercial sell out! Not to mention the gasp of horror on most hardcore fans faces when they both appeared in a GAP advert on TV!!! This was seen as the most obvious of sellouts ever! Given that these guys rarely did interviews and wore masks everywhere so that the music could do the talking their TV appearance, although still masked, will never quite be forgotten!!

I think it’s a good thing though. The album represents a more honest expression of Daft Punk and you can feel this. There is more angst and fury in this album, but also moments of gentle harmony and thought provoking commentary.

The stand out tracks for me were ‘Human after all’, ‘Television rules the nation’ and ‘Technologic’. I think these all encapsulate the Daft Punk ethos and are certain to be classics but not in the way that previous tracks have been. Perhaps the fun and funky visionaries of electro-house are maturing and the sweet and sour flavours of life are seeping in and colouring their perspective in an altogether unexpected manner.

Despite their robotic, mechanic sounds and their robot masks perhaps they are simply ‘Human After All’!! I leave it to you to make your mind up…. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Kaiser Chiefs - Employment (B-Unique) 07/03/2005

A belated review, admittedly, but hey, we WANTED to do it. From opening the 2005 NME Awards comes this debut from the Kaiser Chiefs. Great expectation surrounds this release, so will the reality live up to the imagination?

N: I think so!

T: It sounds exactly like The Skids to me. Perhaps they're out for a night on the town with Shed Seven at times, and David Byrne pops in for a swift half with a couple of members of the Inspiral Carpets, but at the end of the night you're definitely left with Skids. Er...

N: I did ask if you'd checked them this morning, or just turned them inside out! The album I feel might be termed a "classic" in album terms, just enough tracks that fall into the category of "album filler" to temper the uptempo frantic pace of singles "Oh My God" and "I Predict a Riot" as well as "Na Na Na Na Naa". (You should really register that accompanying dance of yours, but Oh My God, I think The Tweets got there first!) 7/10

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Arcade Fire - Funeral (Rough Trade) 28/02/2005

Following hot on the heels of their number 30 hit, "Laika", The Arcade Fire release their eagerly anticipated debut album...

T: And the fact that I regard that particular single as the best one of the year so far bodes well for the resultant score - at least with me anyway. I love practically everything about this album, from the sleeve (set out like a funeral service) to the lyrics, right down to the clever presentation of the music and unusual rhythmic phrasing. Aside from that, the slower tracks are genuinely heartfelt.

N: I can definitely see where you were coming from when you selected this album. It's certainly got some spunk about it. An album I could see myself immersing myself in, but just when I'm not prepared, something truly unexpected occurs - "Une Annee Sans Lumiere" for example. A Polyphonic Spree for the rejuvenated Rough Trade generation.

T: They actually remind me a little bit of the Pixies - not so much in their sound, but in their presentation, variation and phrasing, it's definitely all there. Obviously, this sits extremely well with a huge Pixies fan! 9/10

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Dr. Feelgood – Going Back Home (Live DVD) (EMI)

For those of you too young to remember, Dr. Feelgood were a mid to late seventies outfit who were like a roguish Frankenstein’s monster fashioned from parts of The Ramones, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones and a host of classic Blues artists from a bygone era.

Pre-Punk, this DVD – recorded live at Southend venue The Kursaal in 1975 – shows just why Dr. Feelgood were regarded as one of the tightest and most exciting live bands on the circuit in those early days. Barely speaking between numbers and letting the music do the talking for them, this show captures a band at their prime shortly before the Punk explosion kicked in. Not that this would deter the band however, as they shared a lot of values with those punk bands and indeed managed to score their two biggest hits – “She’s a Wind Up” and the better known “Milk and Alcohol” while the movement was at its absolute height.

Watching this now, recorded some two years before the group actually hit the charts in any form, you can somehow see them as the defining link between rock ‘n’ roll and punk, and, perhaps belatedly, I think we ought to all acknowledge the influence Dr. Feelgood had on today’s music scene. 8/10

Tone E

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...so it's late, but cracking web site. Try the link below!

 

The Chemical Brothers – Push the Button 24/01/2005

The Chemical Brothers have sailed the waves of dance innovation with precision since their underground beginnings, and Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons with their now fifth studio release are impressively continuing that trend to the pleasure of all.
Listening to the album you’re thrown from one style to another in a fusion of countless influences, from electronica, to hip-hop, melodic synths and rumba beats, and first single ‘Galvanize’ even incorporates a Middle Eastern flavour featuring rapper Q-tip in a way-out, but wholly effective mixture.

As well as Q-tip, the Chemical Brothers team up with a whole host of collaborators, including hip-hop stars such as Anwar Superstar (brother of Mos Def), Kele Okereke and an apparently huge tip-off for the future, The Magic Numbers.

My favourite tracks include ‘Believe’, a psychedelic sonic head-trip of piercing sounds, thumping dance-floor beats and synthed echoing vocals. ‘Left Right’, which has a militant hip-hop marching theme and ‘Surface to Air’, which after beginning rather bizarrely morphs into what is probably one of the most uplifting and serene tracks you are likely to hear all year, an inspired album clincher.

This album is pure, bold, electronic class and has re-defined the dance genre yet again for all those who dare to follow. As the cover art suggests, the buttons that The Chemical Brothers will be looking to push with this infectious release are located in your brain, in my opinion the completely & utterly amazed membrane… though admittedly I’m no biologist. 10/10

David Elphick

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