Album Reviews: May 2004


[The Real] Tuesday Weld - I Lucifer ([Pias] Recordings)

"It makes you wonder why no one's done it before", muses Steven Coates (aka - [The Real] Tuesday Weld), as the sometime passionate strings of 'I Lucifer' waft through the clean air of an early summers day. Strings that at first bring to mind the term of 'swing beat', but on closer inspection the term born of the mind of the creator himself does in fact describe this 'new' form of cutting beats together, along with the sounds of a bygone era, sums it up exactly, "antique beat", mmm, what do you think, are you there yet?

The album kicks off with 'It's A Dirty Job But Somebody's Got To Do It', a somewhat intimate dialogue, where the character speaking notes his failings of a crumbled relationship. This reminds of similar, although not the same, situations listened to in the recordings of techno artist, 'Scanner', it's mainly this voyeurism that willing or not, the listener finds themselves in, then onto the absurd 'Bathtime In Clerkenwell', but wait a moment before you draw final judgement because the album will start soon, honest. And surely it does as the entirely credible song 'The Ugly and the Beautiful' commences, its strains that remind me of a melding between Matt Johnson and Noel Gallager become apparently clear, we're off and this whole album is just going to get better.

Through still more moments that bring the term "antique beat" to mind in '[Still] Terminally Ambivalent Over You', a track that rides the waves of this artists musical passion and onto the mash of sample madness in 'Coming Back Down To Earth'. At track seven we find the sensual and sexy, jazz cafe moment in the story of a young man's dreams that is 'The Eternal Seduction of Eve', through a reworking, 'Le Bete et La Belle' that even my CSE grade french worked out was in fact 'The Ugly and the Beautiful'. Whether or not the words in the song were in fact a translation true to the language I have no idea, but it worked for me anyway.

'The Life and Times of the Clerkenwell Kid' conjured up images of a circa 'Westworld' Yul Brynner, with an army of clockwork cowboys at his command - well a subtle reworking, but this idea works. In track 11, 'Heaven Can't Wait' I saw a call for time to stand still, the music belying the urgency shown in the songs title and then we float away in the closing number 'Someday', strains of Judy Garland come to mind, caught in a moment from a wind-up gramophone, that true to 21st century form misses out all the elements from a bowl of cereal, with echo's encapsulating the albums content once again drifting past as once this final number closes the vocalist invites that he "will meet us at the pearly gates one day", 'somewhere over the rainbow' even, I'll leave it up to your own imagination's.

I reviewed the earlier released EP - 'Bathtime In Clerkenwell' some months past and was suitably impressed with the entirely different approach I was presented. Now having heard this release now picked up by '[Pias] Recordings' following an earlier limited release for 'Dreamy' records in early 2003, I can assuredly say that nothing has changed. Whether this will spawn a new direction in music as a whole I doubt, but it is refreshing to revisit a former era once in a while. 10/10

Nick James

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Marjorie Fair – Self Help Serenade (Capitol)

I hate it when the accompanying press release with a CD up for review is so emphatically correct, because when you try to give your thoughts on the record, you feel like you’re just quoting from the damn thing!

Sadly, this is one of those occasions – all the artists mentioned within the blurb are so obviously major influences that I can’t help but follow suit.

For example, “Don’t Believe” and “Halfway House” are undeniably Mercury Rev and Grandaddy induced respectively, then there are bucketloads of tracks that bear a resemblance to Coldplay, several that sound like John Lennon, and yes, as my PR points out, some that tip their hat to both Brian Wilson and Doves.

I can’t even deny that there is a Neil Young type feel going on there too – having recently immersed myself in the great Southern Man’s music, I can categorically confirm that this is true as well!

However, to my delight, I can at least add one refernce to the list, because Teenage Fanclub would appear to have had some effect on Marjorie Fair at one time or another, and there is a sprinkling of Sparklehorse too.

Other than that I have little to offer you, except that it’s a brilliant album. It’s worth buying if only for the fantastic forthcoming single “Waves”. 9/10

Tone E



Ash - Meltdown (Infectious)

For a band in their mid-twenties, Ash seem to have been around for ever. 'Meltdown' is their fifth album in their
ten-year career, widely described in the run-up to its release as their "metal album". But hang on, wasn't that
'Nu-Clear Sounds'? And didn't it suck?

Well, for a start, it isn't a metal album. Its an Ash album, so all the melodies and chart-friendly riffs are there as always. But 'Meltdown' marks a clear progression from their previous offering. The band have succeeded in reducing most of the pop elements, and as a result it's not as immediate as previous Ash albums, but benefits
from repeated listens.

The single 'Orpheus' is a microcosm of the whole album. It starts with a much more crunchy guitar sound, but develops to a big singalong chorus that appeals to everyone whether they like it or not. The album contains two typical Ash guitar ballads, 'Starcrossed' and 'Won't Be Saved', that will appeal to the kids and the fans of the early albums, but these contrast well with the pseudo-metal of 'Detonator'. The downloadable single 'Clones' is a perfect indicator of their attempted new direction, a much more powerful romp that still leaves room for melody. This is the album 'Nu-Clear Sounds' should have been, except improves on it by leaving out the tuneless dirges that scared away fans the first time round. Even though Tim still sounds identical to how he did aged 16 (making you feel slightly awkward when he sings about "carnal sacrifice" in the closer 'Vampire Love', this is an undoubted step forwards. 8/10

Joel Pearson

However for an alternative review, read Tone E's account of this album - click here

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Senser - Schematic (One Little Indian)

I’m not quite sure what to make of the new Senser. Sometimes they sound like they are striving to be Rage Against the Machine, occasionally they end up bearing more resemblance to Carter USM, and on their less effective moments they sound worryingly like Vanilla Ice. Ouch, sorry guys. That was probably a little below the belt, but hey, I just tell it like I see it!

Anyway, let’s concentrate on the stronger tunes, in which much post modern poetry, akin to that of The Streets, is set to a backdrop of pulsating rhythms. “Formula Milk” is one such standout and “Return To Zombie Island” is another.
Some of the better tracks here tip their hats towards Asian Dub Foundation, which is kind of ironic, because I’ve never particularly LIKED Asian Dub Foundation!

Apologies to anyone who regards this band as amongst their favourites, but sadly I have to say that just under half the album is very strong, and the rest just left me feeling nauseas and with a pounding headache.
I’m sure the band will think I deserve it, for giving them such a low mark! 5/10

Tone E

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Grand National - Kicking The National Habit (Sunday Best Recordings)

Nice legs! 'Kicking The National Habit' is the debut long-player from Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence 'La' Rudd, hailing from the heady shores of London and it would appear that the more you learn, the more this jigsaw fits together. Quirksome tunes that hint at the wide ranging influence these two have derived from life and records, from moments of divine comedy (not to be confused with the emerald isles' crooner), to Bowie'esque 'Black Tie, White Noise' moments as is apparent on the track 'Playing In The Distance'. These guys are indeed a fresh wind blowing across the independant scene today and posses a certain dapper sheen with which they attempt to polish off each and every moment of the 10 tracks on offer here. Sitting proudly atop this tree, comes the single 'Talk Amongst Yourselves' well track two at least, and is quickly followed by the squelching afore mentioned 'Playing In The Distance', the pace set from early on is only brought down to take air on 'Peanut Dreams' found mid album and then again on the ultimate tune 'Litter Bin'. This is a well produced album, that it came across these guys had a blast in making, if anything the final tune did perhaps bring affairs down a little too much and really left nothing with which to take away. A nice album, but I'm afraid a little too forgettable to my ears. 7/10

Nick James

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Lamb - Best Kept Secrets, the best of lamb '1996-2004' (Mercury Records)

8 years of a band whose signing to Mercury's Fontana imprint two years prior to where this takes off led to a career which has so far seen 4 albums and a group who have been known for their stunning live performances. Hailing from Manchester, this duo comprising Louise Rhodes (vocals) and Andy Barlow (beats and things), certainly produce music with which to reflect upon. From their debut single 'Cottonwool', through moments veering toward heady drum and bass such as 'God Bless' and 'Little Things' to moments filled with orchestral majesty like the slightly macabre 'Bonfire'. I have to admit to Lamb having been one of those groups who have passed me by without so much as a whisper, other than having been on the billing of a festival I was attending. Why they didn't make a greater impression, I'm unsure, as listening to them now they do sound as if they would've been what I was listening to around this time, but if this compilation is noted as a 'wake-up call' rather than a 'swansong' then their card has been duly marked for further investigation. With strains familiar to Portishead and 'Moby', a sound similar to that coming out of Bristol circa the big 'Bristol sound' thing and an acoustic air of Kristen Hersh, coupled with music possessing a soundtrack familiar to many an 'ad-director', then certainly this group are worth investigation if that isn't enough. 8/10

Nick James

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Graham Coxon - Happiness In Magazines (Transcopic)

“Of COURSE my stuff’s going to sound a bit like Blur”, opines Graham Coxon recently, “I was one of the major contributors to the songwriting OF them!”

Very true indeed of course, and whilst at choice moments there IS a marked similarity between the band’s estranged guitarist and his own solo output, this album more often than not harks back to the heady days of seventies Punk and New Wave, and the record is all the better for it.

I’m sure, for instance, that many of you had already noticed the strong link between the intro to the excellent recent single “Freakin’ Out” and that of the Skids’ “Into the Valley”, and there are several other tiny moments that set you off on a journey of nostalgic through your fondest musical memories.

Even at the most Blur like interludes – recent single “Bittersweet Bundle of Misery” (which, although a top tune, still sounds like “Coffee & TV” to me) and “Hopeless Friend” in particular – Coxon still hits all the right notes and makes all the right noises to ensure this is an essential addition to any enthusiast’s collection.

High points for me are the introductory track “Spectacular”, which is delightful in its splendidly unexpected emphasis on certain syllables within its lyric, the lovely “All Over Me”, the almost sixties Surf sound of “Are You Ready?” and the previously mentioned riot that is “Freakin’ Out”.

I read recently that Damon wants him back in the band. On this evidence, it is little wonder why. 8/10

Tone E

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Alanis Morissette - So-Called Chaos (Maverick)

Described as "one of the most successful singer/songwriters to ride on the second wave of grrrl rock in the mid-90's", Alanis Morrissette has seen a career in both the arena of high profile rock music, to one that has seen her contribute to many film sound tracks, as well as portraying the role of 'god' in Kevin Smith's 'Dogma' (not the only screen role that has seen Alanis grace celluloid - although it has to be said that type-casting in such a role of such divinity may be one criticism).

I'm uncertain as to exactly how many albums to count as far as Alanis goes, as early work saw 2 less 'Alanis Morissette' album's early on in her career. As far as the dark and brooding Morissette we know today goes it would be fair to say that these total 4 works of original material, with this being her latest it certainly follows in the guise we know of this artist. The album is a constant as far as the work on offer here, with moments of particular note coming in the shape of the recent single 'Everything', 'Excuses' and 'Doth I Protest Too Much', but all-in-all it has to be said that whilst this album may make an excellent accompaniment, it is as this that it may find its best place - there have been better albums she has recorded, although this should not be disregarded. 6/10

Nick James

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Morrissey - You Are The Quarry (Attack) - Released 17th May 2004

There weren't many of us left for a while, ‘there’…being Moz fans that is. If ever there was a casualty of “fashion over content” then its our Steven. Since the racist allegations of ’92, Morrissey’s relationship with the press gradually got worse and despite releasing his best album in the shape of ”Vauxhall and I”, the public fell out with Morrissey, until there was only us left…the fans….we stuck with him through thick (“Southpaw Grammar”) and thin (most of “Maladjusted”). Being label less for these exiled years seemed to allow Moz to mellow and re-examine the reasons he sang in the first place by touring the world twice (self financed and label-less) and reaffirming his place as a true icon.

It’s no coincidence then that the seeds of influence that were sown as a Smith, were now turning into a fully fledged crop ready to be reaped. This year, is the year which all icons can do what they like, good, bad or ugly, and the public and press alike will afford them the luxury of being great…..because they once were great. Bowie’s had it, Dylan has these years every so often, and the Cure seems to be setting themselves up for an untouchable year, too. This is the year where Morrissey could have released “Southpaw Grammar” and the press and public would rate it as his best work. Y’see he can do no wrong……well as a bloody long term Moz fan, I truly am the right man for the job of seeing if the new offering is worthy of the great mans new found relevance.

First things first, the voice: check, the lyrics: check the tunes…? : kind of. In short, another typical Morrissey album: some shite tracks and a few truly great tracks. The usual band are present…yes, that bunch of rockabillys he plucked from obscurity 14 years ago. That means that the playing’s OK yet uninventive (especially when your history’s Marred). This also means that they needed a producer capable of keeping the effects pedals locked away and making an interesting album that isn’t dull: step in Mr Jerry Finn ( Blink 182, Green Day). Seems like a crazy idea, really, but bloody hell he really has provided an album with guts and a wide musical palette….there’s even a flute solo for god’s sake!

Starting off with ‘America Is Not The World’, Morrissey sets out his stall…sharp words depicting his new home as a”fat pig”, but loving it all the same.The guitars twinkle, and the synths (yes…synths!) squelch quite nicely. A great start. New single ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ has been in the live set for a couple of years, and it rocks! ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’ shimmies in with a seventies glam feel, and depicts El Moz trying to off-load some desire of the physical kind and its ace. ‘Come back to Camden’ illustrates once again the ability of Morrissey to evoke the English world with love and desire, note the line “under slate grey Victorian skies”, maybe his LA life makes the heart grow fonder.

Next up is a real weird track ‘I'm Not Sorry’…on first listen I couldn’t hear a song…just this hypnotic groove(!). But it gently reveals itself as a stunning lament about looking for love…..yes not a new subject, but when its so well executed you don’t mind. ‘The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores’ follows, and sees Morrissey ranting about pop idols and others who wind him up…and its an alright track. This is where the album needs to motor and, well, it doesn’t.‘How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel’ is some words to some music (A southpaw grammar reject) and nothing more. ‘The First Of The Gang To Die’ takes the chorus from ‘Best Friend On The Payroll’ and Morrissey sings one of those character songs he started doing in ‘92. Its an OK track but has no place on this album.Its better than ‘Dagenham Dave’ though, thank god.

‘Let Me Kiss You’ was written for Nancy Sinatra and her version will soon be released by Mozzer’s label….again, its an “OK track”.Its got some great lines about thinking about someone you admire and letting him kiss you etc, but it doesn’t pick the album up for its lull. ‘All The Lazy Dykes’ goes some way to rectify this with a lulling Waltz about, well some dykes who are lazy. (Uuh?)

‘I Like You’ is a “bit of a rocker” with Moz telling someone that he “likes you”, and it does lift the album as it tumbles into the stunning closer ‘You Know I Couldn’t Last’ about critics, record companies and journalists and it’s a storming closer to the album: it leaves you with hope that this man can again make a complete body of work to equal any Smiths album. For now, he’s back in fashion and omnipresent, and thank god that in a world of modern pop, Morrissey’s here to attack. 8/10

Parker Biro

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Throbbing Gristle - The Taste of TG (Industrial Records/Mute)
Throbbing Gristle - Mutant TG (Nova Mute)

During the period 1975-'81, TG attracted their fair share of attention during a time when the punk ethos was riding high. The late Tory MP, Sir Nicholas Fairburn dubbed them "Wreckers of Civilisation", perhaps unaware that it was he who was contributing to their place in history. From their inception born from the ashes of performance-art troupe/media guerilla cell Coum Transmissions, Genesis P. Orridge (later Psychic TV & The Temple of Psychic Youth), Cosey Fanni Tutti (Psychic TV & Coil), Peter Christopherson (Psychic TV, Coil & video director) and Chris Carter (Industrial Records), the roots that bore such an outspoken act became far more influential. Well as a seed Throbbing Gristle certainly wrote the book as far as much of what we hear today goes - dig a little deeper and you'll be surprised what you learn (note Mistry, Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails and The The, as amongst just a few). But basically although these guys were at the core of the alternative/industrial movement that happened post TG, a moment with the group musically is difficult to say the least - shit may well be a better way to describe it. Lyrics that burn of tasteless drivel, for Nicholas Fairburn to describe them as he did is no surprise, although in true politician fashion one that itself stank of over exaggeration, but under-exaggeration never got votes!

What came after these guys was in fact a far more palatable dish, I myself discovered Psychic TV more years ago than I would care to admit and found theirs to complement a need at the time. But basically 'A Taste Of...' is no more than a dish that may well feed that hole of emptiness you may feel in that moment just before you choose to turn out the lights, but what follows may well be much worse. 4/10 However 'Mutant TG' released to preceed their retrospective 'A Taste Of...' is a remix album with original numbers reworked by a cast of glittering stars from today's arena of credible dance music, Basement Jaxx to Carl Craig adding a much needed modern view of the groups vast catalogue. Although this may well be seen as a compliment to the earlier reviewed, I feel this may well only be seen as the case for completist's, 'Mutant TG' is a valuable contribution in itself, a vibrant star in the circle of modern music, whereas the former only serves as a reminder of where we once walked and I certainly don't wish to retread these steps - a pacer number, revived and updated is where we are, not walking through the swamp of yesterdays mistakes. 7/10

Nick James

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The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free (Locked In)

Mike Skinner returns with this, the follow-up to 2002's 'Original Pirate Material' and in much the same guise as this original work. Keeping it real to the hilt, this album screams of a home made affair, where surely much of the recording budget was allowed for cans of Special Brew, the latest Nokia and a gram of gear. Much of the music you will find is lent to endless 'loops', but it's when you get to the lyrics that you will find the 'gold' in this music. Mike writes just as he would as if he were thinking and this comes out verbatim, nothing left out and in a very naive fashion, but this is the beauty. The cover comes with a "Parental Advisory" - warning attached, and yes it may be considered that some of the language used is nothing less than rife, but where on other works this is may come across in a threatening manner, here it is used in nothing other than part of the rich tapestry of the english language. These guys are a 'Happy Mondays' of this decade and Mike Skinner, a Morrissey of his generation. In all fairness this is another 'Original Pirate Material', but that said is hilariously funny, bright and is still brought with a breath of fresh air on the UK music scene. 9/10

Nick James

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Amplifier - Amplifier (Music For Nations)

Another of the new-rock bands being born out of the UK at present and these are certainly on the A-list of those groups. Think Tool, think Soundgarden, think better than the rest and you'll be coming close to what Amplifier are about. Hailing from Manchester, this trio thankfully put down their clubbing roots of 10 years previously, those of techno and drum and bass and instead added a six string, separated the drums from the bass, layered on lyrics of an impending new world order and literally blew another hole in the musical history of this city. Listening to some of the lyrics here you can certainly understand this earlier life these guys lived, but this has certainly made this group the multifaceted artists we are now privy to, solid, entertaining and with substance.

This band have already been declared 'the future' and having been party to such a superb debut offering it is easy to understand why these guys are considered so highly. If rock music is your 'bag', you won't find much better than this, so don't delay, discover them for yourself. 8/10

Nick James

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War Against Sleep - Messages (Fire)

Melancholy madness is brought to us here from the pen of Duncan Fleming and his 'War Against Sleep'. A fitting name for such an insanely intense singer who I'd hastard a guess had very little of the '8-hours a night' form of rest during the 5 years this was in the making. So dotty is the fact that this is brilliant, although it does fit into the category of being a 'slow-burner', its music creeping at you from under your skin, before you'll find yourself reaching to turn up the volume control when playing this lo-fi epic.

Certainly strains of Nick Cave can be found here, along with what I found to be elements of 'Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers' - Greg Dulli, although I'd admit that this is not played with such forceful abandon as this later comparison. Duncan has made in this work that came of a liaison with a rich union of artists we are told in Bristol, a simply quite fantastic journey through one man's dark self, thankfully lyrics are printed in order to aid your own journey. I have no doubt that if you take the time to let this penetrate your own head space you will find sheer entertainment in the sometime disturbing, other time confusing and then again you will find those moments that will make you howl, tears of laughter running down your cheeks - where Greg shows his true colours as the passionate genius he clearly is. 9/10

Nick James

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Iain Archer - Flood The Tanks (Bright Star/[Pias] Recordings)

It's happening again, you find yourself quite willing to get you teeth into something somewhere not quite above 'less than good' and yet it's at these times that you find something quite literally perfect. This feeling of euphoria is made a little clearer when you begin to understand the background of this talented singer/songwriter from Bangor in County Down, his earlier contribution to music, the point where it all seemed futile and considered turning away this talent, right up to his work within the Reindeer Section and work with and writing for Snow Patrol, including a co-writing credit for the band's current single 'Run'.

Quite simply this album is brilliant in a way that doesn't scream at you, but more-over persuades you that this really is the right path to tread, but never once having to actually over-work the issue. A twelve track album that has far too many shining moments to actually quote them here without these becoming just ordinary, something which this album is certainly not, but my personal favourite jumped out in the form of 'Summer Jets' that spoke more of just the trotting pace that the music set, but spoke clearly in the singer's invitation that it was "...time to fake a life...", my heart sank and I realised that in this artist I had arrived home. 10/10

Nick James

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Lucky Jim - Our Troubles End Tonight (Skint)

Ok, so I've re-read the review of their last single contributed by my second in command here at Atomicduster and all I can say is, I'm a little concerned he's not remaining on his prescribed course of medication! Where did he lift the Roy Orbison comparison? I'm sure once he's read this he'll inform me, before kicking me somewhere private I wouldn't be surprised. Del Amitri, alright I'll give him that one, at a push, considering these guys come from north of the border, but Ry Cooder made a career out of 'slide guitar', so this one's as thin as the way I spread the butter on my guests bread when they come to visit.

Alright, that's that one off my chest, let me get on with describing the band's debut album. Where to start, well 'remarkable', 'engaging' and 'quite simply crammed' would be a good place to commence proceedings and then I'll go on to draw comparisons of Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Barry Adamson and Elvis Presley - ooo, I'm gonna get some flack from this one! But basically this album draws allegiance from far and wide, never once standing still. Music that is, apart from that you might usually expect from the 'Skint' stable, banging choons and Norman Cook standing on Brighton beach, but this is good and shows the breadth and range considered by the label. If you're looking for quality music, by artists that care more about the next cut, than the next buck, then smaller 'cottage labels' such as the certainly not 'Skint' may just be a good place to start, but I'm sure than you worked that one out for yourself. A lullaby for the post 'night out' party. 8/10

Nick James

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Seafood – As the Cry Flows (Cooking Vinyl)

Somewhat unexpectedly kicking off with an atmospheric track that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ooberman album, given the breathy vocals and the feeling that this is going to be Seafood’s first concept album (though thankfully, it isn’t).

In fact, this is really rather a restrained outing from the former rock monsters, though the remnants of the excellent predecessor “When Do We Start Fighting” do rear their head at choice moments throughout. I have to admit though, I’m surprised, for I never realised that Seafood were capable of such transcendent beauty. And actually, some of those mellow melodies turn out to be the pinnacle of the album – I personally really like “No Sense of Home” and the lazy splendour of the summery “Kicking the Walls”, though it has to be said that the excellent “Good Reason” is the absolute highpoint of the album.

Anyway, it’s nice to see that Seafood aren’t content just to rest on their laurels and make “WDWSF” part two. In this, they’ve made an album equally as good as their former release, but more resplendent in its magnificence. 9/10

Tone E

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The Mendoza Line – Fortune (Cooking Vinyl)

I don’t quite know how to pigeonhole The Mendoza Line…or indeed if I should even attempt to. The first time I heard them, I had them down as a folk/country and western type outfit, but although that genre is evident here in places, the remainder defies such a label. Maybe “rhythm and blues” would be a better way to put it, and there’s certainly no shortage and decent R&B stuff on “Fortune”.
The best moments though are the ones where the band forget about their roots, such as the latest single “Before I Hit the Wall” and the sublimely tender “Let’s Not Talk About It”.
Influences can be easily identified – take the “Get It On” style opening of “An Architect’s Eye” and the several Tom Waits or Steve Harley style compositions.

Anyway, it’s an eminently listenable album, with a few surprises, though some of the country stuff just went way over my head, to be frank. 7/10

Tone E

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Ooops: Ones that we missed, almost!


Dilated Peoples - Neighborhood Watch (Capitol Records)

I am pleased to see Dilated Peoples on the review list this month. With the success of the current single 'This Way' feat. flavour of the month, Kanye West, the album promises to do well across the board. I have to say its about time these guys got some recognition in mainstream circles in the UK, as they have been knocking about for over a decade. Hailing out of what I like to think of as my home town, L.A., Evidence, Rakaa and Babu have been on the cutting edge of urban and more mainstream music for time and a half. With production credits for artists such as the Beastie Boys and the Beatnuts its not surprising that they had been able to pull in collaborations with The Alchemist, Rob 'Reef' Tewlow (50Cent, Fat Joe), newcomer Kanye West and Nucleus to name a few.

The album begins with 'Marathon' highlighting the group statying power in the industry and with their fans. One feature of this album and previous material is the balance between the lyrics and the music. 'Marathon' is a blend of brain melting hooks and lyrical content that probes.

Other tracks worthy of highlighting are 'Poisonous', a commentary on the less desirable traits of one young lady. Refreshingly no 'be-ach' or 'ho' references on this track. In fact, there is little swearing or cussing on the album but I think this says more about intelligent writing than anything else. 'Big Business' and 'Love and War' are grade 'A' beats and bass with a fair sprinklin of hooked-ness and highly political rants that are topical without ever seeming to want to cash in on current world events.

To finish the album you have 'This Way' and 'DJ Babu in deep concentration'. The first a highly commercial success and the second basically a DJ having some fun on the decks!! A great way to round off a great album. To anyone who is interested in hip hop or rap music generally, I would say have a look(if you havent already) at what these guys are doing. They are at the very least, a superb accompliment to the likes of Eminem and G-Unit ( The Dr. Dre Stable) and the more 'Gangsta' or 'Bling' artists and, at very best, a completely different vibe that will leave you with a deeper more soulful aftertaste. 9/10

Nic Caesar

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Beta Band - Heros To Zeros (Regal)

Believe or not this album has travelled a long journey and meets the ears of their adoring fans in the shape of a self produced, well what can I say - epic. This, their third album, is the culmination of 18 months work and been described as the band having taken "a more muscular approach to their songwriting, both lyrically and musically". So what does that mean? It still has all the hallmarks that may lay it clear of their competition and brands this as an album from the studios of the 'Beta Band', but certainly takes in references from a psychedelic Beatles to as far as a mid-seventies air of naive electronic aggression, as is displayed on the track 'Liquid Bird' - better not ask just wonder. This actually has all the hall marks of a concept album and twists and turns, taking in samples to create this epic of rather plump proportions. But rather than coming across as self-indulgent, sees a toned and yes alright "muscular" album of a heavyweight 13 tracks across a rather lean 42 minutes. All this said, don't read between the lines and get this album wrong, The Beta Band have returned and created their 'White Album'. 9/10

Nick James

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Ima Robot - Ima Robot (Virgin)

"Here's a story for the kids!", yes you've heard the song 'Dynomite' that opens the debut from the 'alternative' Ima Robot. New-wave for the 21st century, from a 5 piece who seem to have swallowed a multitude of influences, but most all The Sparks and Rocky Horror is what I hear most of from the American raised quintet, whose Alex Ebert (vocs.) freely admits to witnessing Milli Vanilli playing 'live' at the Universal Amitheatre in LA?! The rest of the band appear somewhat 'left of centered as it seems, John Meddal-Johnson having walked the boards playing for Beck, Frank Black, Tori Amos, Marianne Faithful and Medicine amongst others. Joey Waronker (Drums) appears to have been a studio musician with Beck, REM and Smashing Pumpkins, again among others, whilst the remaining members Timmy (guitar) and Oligee (keys/programming) appear to either have been born from a musical embryo or otherwise have received a transfusion of musical sorts somewhere along the way.

I think you're getting the picture now, these guys are nuts, but their music is very creative and really quite unlike that, that comes along every day. With their background, I think if this band can keep it together, they look set to reap a very rewarding career of great influence. 8/10

Nick James

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Gang Of Four - Solid Gold (EMI)

A re-release of the band’s second studio album, this follows on from the successful recent re-issue of their debut long player, “A Brief History of the Twentieth Century”.

Well, it’s twenty two years since this was first released, and it sounds as fresh as (and possibly even better than) it did in the first place. The band was clearly way ahead of their time, as can be witnessed on the opening track, “Paralysed” – The Streets anyone?

Much of the remainder of the record is an important reminder of just how great a role Gang of Four played in the evolving music scene of the time. Elements of The Clash, The Specials, early eighties New Wave, hell, even a tiny smattering of New Romanticism is in evidence here.

Whereas those bands mentioned in the previous paragraph’s analysis are often touted as major influences by the artists of today, Gang of Four would appear to have held a rather more underground appeal and you just can’t fault them for that.
Perhaps one of the things that kept them from the mainstream was their mightily aggressive, anti-establishment, non-conformist lyrical prowess, but this ultimately was one of the band’s greatest strengths. Just listen to “Cheeseburger” (their case for not pandering to America – I doubt if Tony Blair has this in his collection) for blatant proof.
Overall, a worthwhile re-issue from a woefully underappreciated band. 8/10

Tone E

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