Album Reviews: May 2005


Motley Crue - Red, White & Crue (Mercury) 30/05/2005

These guy's have the reputation of being one of the most destructive rock groups in history and their reunion-come-farewarewell tour in June this year sees the release of a retrospective CD and Greatest Hits DVD. But for now it's the 18-track CD I have here in front of me, that temps me in to taste their brand of hard rockin' living and experience the pleasures and pains of a group who's remit when forming was for "creating fists-in-the-air anthems that didn't require a high IQ on the part of the listener".

Well for a group who've had no less than 10 UK singles hit the charts, alongside 5 albums spanning the period 1985 to 1994, this album pretty much covers it, and who couldn't fail to recall their 1987 smash "Girls, Girls, Girls". But on this album I found the highlight to be the earlier recorded "Black Widow", an audible treat, with a phenomenally rich texture to its sound, music that will at times make your speakers come alive and almost dance with excitement.

However on the whole I found this album somewhat formulaic and in pale comparison from what G'n'R and others were heard recording at around this time. So although running to excess my feeling is that if you were a by-stander at around this time, there are far better albums out there representing what it is these guy's can be heard producing. That said the new single that closes this album is a pretty good rock tune. 4/10

Nick James

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The Havenots – Never Say Goodnight (Cooking Vinyl) 23/05/05

I’m not going to give you a track by track summary of this album, because it’s sending tingles down my spine and I feel like I’m being caressed by angels. Ah, I’m just an old folkie at heart.

This is a tremendous record, filled to the brim with captivating tunes – mesmerising even – and both Liam Dullaghan and Sophia Marshall possess voices that compliment each other so well that you feel at times like you’re drifting into a Utopian dreamland. Liam’s voice is a gentle, laid back one that would make you feel calm even if you were face to face with an axe wielding maniac, and Sophia’s multi-octave-spanning overtones belie her tender years (she’s just 21) to paint her as a particularly effervescent nightingale.

I’m still bewildered that the duo hail not from some sunny Southern US state but from my home town of Leicester, here in lil’ old Blighty, because it’s the sort of album you’d perhaps pick up whilst on vacation after hearing it on some remote local radio station across the pond and feel proud of yourself for unearthing such a gem.

Seeing as I haven’t mentioned any tracks yet, let me just say that, at present, my faves are “Flyers”, “Up Like Stairways”, New Lace Dress” and “A Tiny Taste of Death”, but if you like alt-country or indie folk or whatever it is that you want to call it, you really can’t go wrong with this album as there isn’t a bad track on it.

Absolutely gorgeous. 9/10

Tone E

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Alabama 3 – Outlaw (One Little Indian) 23/05/05

Either Alabama 3 have bugged my house and deliberately made an album that ties in with my current obsession for Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns, or they’re just plain lucky. Either that, or, as is more likely the case, they have just unwittingly made one of the finest albums of the year.

Given an air of authenticity by the inclusion of collaborations with Bruce Richard Reynolds (mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery) and BJ Cole amongst others, “Outlaw” is a glorious celebration of all things Jesse James and Dick Turpin, with scant regard for such namby-pamby green tight wearing fictional Nottingham folk heroes.

The juxtaposition of deep grass roots blues and throbbing techno shouldn’t really work as well as this, but somehow it does. It actually sounds like how Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ “Loco” SHOULD have ended up.

Some fantastic tongue in cheek lyrics, coupled with titles you can only marvel at (how can you fail to be enchanted by titles like “Terra Firma Cowboy Blues”, “Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds?” or “Hello…I’m Johnny Cash”?) and some of the coolest vibes you’ll hear this year all go to make a wonderful, fascinating album, so you know what to do – get off your horse and drink this milk…but just make sure you act like Eastwood instead of Wayne. 9/10

Tone E

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Queen Adreena – The Butcher and the Butterfly (One Little Indian) 23/05/05

The disturbing “Suck” begins this album as if it were a particularly harrowing scene from a psychological chiller, and the way Katie Jane Garside phrases her “la la la” bits gives off an air of viciously, and prematurely, stolen innocence, which is ALWAYS the most arse clenchingly frightening moment in any film for me.

There’s never really any let up after that, as “The Butcher and the Butterfly” is one of the darkest records I’ve heard in years. There ARE things you can distract yourself with, such as spotting the similarity in riffs between “Ascending Stars” and “Whole Lotta Love”, or noticing that on “Racing Towards the Sun” she’s a dead ringer for Suzi Quatro with a bad case of PMT. Trust me, you NEED to do these things. I have a feeling that if I didn’t, I’d be a gibbering wreck by the end of the album.

Katie’s still as gorgeous as ever, but I could never have sex with her, for fear that she may cut my head off with that old daisy chainsaw of hers.

Honestly, I’m that scared. 7/10

Tone E

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Juliette and the Licks - You're Speaking My Language (Hassle) 16/05/05

Cult Hollywood actress Juliette Lewis brings her band to Britain and jumps all over audiences with her "punk" music...

T: Yes, as all you readers know, I'm going to bring up my monthly Patti Smith reference whenever there's a female singer featured, and today is no exception. But it's more than that this time around - whilst the blistering single reeks of Ms Smith, there are other moments reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Wendy O'Williams throughout this album. It's a hell of a lot better than I was expecting it to be, if I'm totally honest. And, like I've referenced elsewhere, it's better than MOST Hollywood stars' attempts at making music.

N: Alright, so I was empowered by Juliette's performance in "Natural Born Killers", but I too was intigued at how this skinny kitten...ahem...tiger...was going to pan out doing her best Courtney Love. Well, "could do better" I should assume appeared somewhere on her school reports, although, like you, this is perhaps no worse than Daisy Chainsaw, or any number of "riot girl" fronted bands.

T: I do think though, with some of the reviews I've read in various music mags so far, those particular hacks have automatically thought "Ah. It's Juliette Lewis. Therefore it isn't very good", without actually listening to it as though it is a new band. I feel it's better than most of those people have given it credit for, due to her celebrity status.

N: Admittedly, as the album progresses, it does get better, although not necessarily my cup of tea these days. 7/10

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Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger (Warp Records) 16/05/05

“Signal and Sign” begins proceedings like the Inspiral Carpets having an uber-jam with The Damned and, for me, this is a major plus!

You’ll already know the two singles that follow, “Apply Some Pressure and “Graffiti”, given the amount of air time that’s been dedicated to them recently, so you’ll be aware that the former hit single is like a cooler, more up to date and rockier version of Ultravox. By the same token, the latter – and current – single probably reminds you of a twice-as-aggressive Shed Seven.

“Postcard of a Painting” is more like a Morrissey / Marr composition as performed by the Undertones and by the time you reach track five, “Going Missing”, you realise that the band have got their own distinctive style that has been shaped by all the previously mentioned artists (though the Damned reference is only evident on the album’s opener).

“I Want You to Stay” is a heartfelt lament that somehow manages to sound very summery, and then one of the very few glitches rears its head in the shape of the instantly forgettable “Limassol” (though I’ll probably decide it’s the best one on the album in a few weeks time and regret saying that!)

Thankfully, parity is restored with the glorious “The Coast is Always Changing”, which somehow manages be a cross between Red Box and “Knick Knack Paddywhack” and still sound utterly brilliant!

“The Night I Lost My Head” is a nursery rhyme for the football terraces, “Once, a Glimpse” starts out as a moody, Joy Division kind of composition but becomes a fiendishly infectious belter of a tune and “Now I’m All Over the Shop” embraces the more theatrical elements of early Queen, resulting in an astonishingly brilliant track that is the pick of the bunch for me.

“Acrobat” is like REM’s “Low” but spoken over the top of Bowie’s “Heroes” and I have to say, if I’m going to make ONE major criticism of this album, it’s the fact that Paul Smith’s voice needs SOME kind of reverb on it – the dry effect just doesn’t work on what would otherwise be a superb track. And, after all that, to finish the album off with a bog standard jangly pop song is just criminal.

Still, these gripes aside, let me just say that this remains a great debut album and one that is infinitely enjoyable at that. 8/10

Tone E

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Kathryn Williams - Over Fly Over (CAW Records) 09/05/2005

Having described her earlier single release from this album as "a weedier Lush..." it'll be interesting to hear whether the album has lived up to the tag of 'classic album' that was suggested in the press blurb that accompanied this and the earlier release?

Well starting off hopefully, the first track on this album resides somewhere between 'The Breeders' on a quiet day and an orchestra tuning up before the onslaught of the performance, but albeit a little restrained this is actually not as bad as the picture we painted the first time we encountered the single - 'Shop Window' (seated at number 6 here). Continuing with 'Indifference' (has she been spying on me?), this continues the same easy slouch, but being honest doesn't sparkle as a true 'classic' should (yet). The track 'Breath' continues, followed by 'Old Low Light #2', both of which can be heard letting the music breath in an acoustic light I had earlier ignored. Maybe this artist does posses the germ that will allow her to flower in not just my cynical mind.

As the album continued, through audible pleasures before unrealised, even the formerly trashed 'Shop Window' took a new light and pace that saw it become the tortoise to my mind's hare. For me the earlier part of the album was definitly the better paced and filled, but I'm sure given time to enjoy this album, this view may change, but otherwise 12 tracks of highs and inevitable lower points that can only improve. 7/10

Nick James

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Body Rockers - Body Rockers (Mercury) 09/05/2005

The tried and tested route to music with the right impact, is to borrow from music which already has the impact you are looking for, and it's even better if that music hasn't got any copyright restrictions because the composer died yonks back. In this case the Body Rockers have borrowed from 'George Frideric Handel' who died in 1759 and although of German extraction, at least is described as a German born, English composer and well he met his match in London, which is strange as I was only thinking as this album progressed, that it had the ring of Hendrix about it, and the Seattle born music god also died in London.

So a lesson in getting from the Body Rockers, through Handel, ending up with Johnny Allen Hendrix (Jimi Hendrix) in 3 easy steps then. This games fun... Although perhaps someone should warn those living in London, that it might not be so good for their health.

So where was I? I think I went somewhere off the track there, let's see if I can drive this review back onto the road... aah yes, 'The Body Rockers', as the MC announces 1'25" into the 7th track - "For One Night Only", so of an 11 track album, clocking in at just shy of 40 minutes you can see where I'm up to at present. But that's no escaping the reference I first made note of, and this would be the opening gambit here... "Handel On Your Face", a cultured barnstormer that makes use of Handel's "Saraband" to good effect. A number where the spirits of both the composer and Hendrix meet in a head on collision, culminating in debris spread across this road.

"Body Rockers" is seated somewhere amidst the mosh pit and dance floor and does posses abundant amounts of both attack and aggression. This was certainly identified in their debut single "I Love The Way", introduced as the second track here, and found its way heading the present 'Grolsch' advertising campaign. So it must be that these guys have something in their makeup that appeals to both the sharp suited media types and street cred DJ's throughout Europe.

I found the album most definitely benefited from a second listen, in which I was able to absorb the bountiful crop being offered up. Although big in sound, I found this at times can become a little too full on. From the influences tested here, of ZZ Top's blatant borrowing from "Sharp Dressed Man" on "Round & Round" to the track "Dignity", that I can best describe as Nine Inch Nail's by numbers. Although this wasn't a bad track, I got the feeling that they'd listened to Pretty Hate Machine, even The Downward Spiral the night before writing this, so close was the resemblance.

And so that brings us to the final track, "Stuck In A Rut" a massive come down from the previously listened to "Dignity" and in this case cast shades of Elton John and Scissor Sisters in its composition, an artist who I felt made quiet appearances throughout. On the whole a pretty decent first album and one I'm I'll return to with found memories in the years to come, so strong are many of the works available. But for now I'll put it back in its box, my appetite more than filled and weight watchers becoming from a group close at hand. 8/10

Nick James

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War Against Sleep - Invitation To The Feast (Fire Records) 03/05/2005

May 2004, a good month for reviews I note looking back at past issues and a month where we reviewed this band's debut album 'Messages' - well at least I beleive this was their debut? 'War Against Sleep' took their name from the biography of Greek-American Philospher - George Ivanovich Gurjieff, who held some madcap idea between the values of society and the state of sleep, but this is not a philosophy lesson, so go out and find out what the **** he was on, but anyway blinding name for a band.

So on with the review, 'War Against Sleep' are the brain child of Stockport born Duncan Flemmings, who it has to be noted started off this bedroom operation somewhere in the Bristol area, far more of a pedigree with that description, but that's me just being a snob (No offense intended). This album features the guest musings of Roisin Murphy (Moloko), Nick Talbot (Gravenhurst) and Patrick Duff (Strangelove) and for me still does to remind of Nick Cave and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers) - which for me was a good thing, as Flemmings wailings slice through the atmosphere before my desktop.

But on the lower side of things and as 'Messages' continues where this play left off, although a good album, that is all I can describe 'Invitation To The Feast' as being. 'Messages' was a blinder of an affair, this second installment can have a tendancy to wallow and after a hopefull start, I found does settle into the comfy chair syndrone to readily. Which is where marking this does become somewhat of a puzzle. Do I remain safe? Just the wrong side of this, or take the album for what it is? Well 'Teletext Nights' made up my mind, in that they're are some very nice arrangements on this album, so here goer... 7/10 But in closing do make 'Messages' your first encounter with the group.

Nick James

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Matthew Bayot - Circling Buzzards (Fire Records) 03/05/05

A spell-binding collection of songs from this multi-talented musician hailing from St Louis, Missouri. How can I begin to describe this wonderfully chilled out 49 minutes spent in his company? Well at first it would have to be 'psychedelic' and although this juniper tinged vide is indeed available throughout, Matthew can veer toward the rhythm section possessing the likeness of 'The Smashing Pumpkins' or 'Beck' for the briefest of moments, then returning to music filled with the promise of a higher existence.

The album kicks off with the track 'Cast No Shadow', a piece of music that I can't help recalling the music of Ian Brown, what with Matthew's wide-eyed vocal, played to accompanying tabla and sitar. All this is possibly explained by the fact that he has studied classical Indian music, but where the Ian Brown comes into being, I'm really not sure. But what of the lyrics? Well I love the line in which Matthew sings... "I am only saying something, just to have something to say." in the song 'Beauty Myth', but I'd note that although this may not be the most profound in lyrical statements, I would like a lyric book to accompany the music, which can be at times be a little far-out and as if the sound staging is on another plane.

I do like the music however he explores on this album, which is not the usual guitar-bass-drum combination, but instead he utilise's his training to bring his audience a greater understanding of another's culture and musical heraldry, but does at times veer into the territory of a Hendrix'esque soundscape (almost). So with 'rock' never too far out of reach, this album can well be described a wild journey through 'scapes both foreign and familiar, with the shorter of the tunes offered here, a far more attractive proposition - well have you ever sat through a 13 minute sitar/tabla solo? So although pretty much unique in terms of rock music, this does perhaps remain a little too close to a particular genre and doesn't open up enough. 7/10

Nick James

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Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cold Roses (Lost Highway) 02/05/05

We're sure you all know who Ryan Adams is, so we'll just tell you that this is his new band's album. But you probably gathered that anyway.

T: I can't deny that Ryan Adams has done some absolutely stunning records in the past; however, I can't help feeling that he's just bridging the gap between his last great album and the next one here. I mean, there's nothing WRONG with any of this stuff, and it's a quite sun-soaked, palatable record. Not exactly exciting though is it?

N: For me, the album's working, and following my trashing of the latest single, I wanted us BOTH to hear this album. Admittedly, although far less paced and filled with a country edge, I'm inclined to make references to Neil Young in his quieter moments...

T: No way! That's like comparing Bucks Fizz with Motorhead! Being a big fan of Shakey (no, not the denim clad Welshman you're thinking about), I have to say that's quite an insult.

N: Well perhaps even Tom Petty or the Travelling Wilburys...are we getting a little closer? But it's interesting that the man can both play guitar and sing whilst still asleep...

T: It's just not doing ANYTHING for me, but then, I sold my soul to the devil YEARS ago...

N: No, I wouldn't be that dismissive. As an album, it's nice, but not perhaps terribly exciting. 5/10

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The Boxer Rebellion - Exits (Poptones/Mercury) 02/05/2005

Poptones, the new label project from former 'Creation' founder Alan McGee, sees 'The Boxer Rebellion' release their much anticipated debut album. With such a pedigree surounding the label's front man, are these guys going to 'cut the mustard'? Well as the heckles on the back of my neck stood erect and a chill proceeded down my spine as the opening track; 'Flight' took shape maybe this was indeed going to be the new-wave of British indie pop for the 21st Century.

For any kid born between the later Sixties and early Eighties, Creation was a phenomenon that fed our desires in the lead up into the unknown of the 'C21'. Would the world implode on itself come zero hour, only leaving us with our memories of 'My Bloody Valentine's -Loveless', 'Ride' and 'Swervedriver', to name just a few. Well as nothing so final came of our futures, it left us somewhat greedily clinging on to these memories, leaving nothing for the new generation that we were breeding (ok so this is a little bleak a description I admit). Although not quite in my mind to the same proportions as the original explosion I began to experience in the later Eighties, this won't be my pivitol hour.

The Boxer Rebellion are the kid in the candy shop, wanting it all, but not quite having pockets large enough in their shorts with which to see the task through. Lying somewhere between 'indie' and 'rock', 'Mansun' and Kerrang's headline act of choice. The album starts in cracking form, gets a little lost along the way before picking up by the time we reach 'Never Knowing How Or Why', 'Lay Me Down' (I prefered 'The Mock Turtles' track of the same name) although here it became became rather lost in production and 'Cowboys And Indians' - a tumping, swirling affair, by which point I found myself ignoring the closing track - 'The Adsentee'. Good, but perhaps not good enough, then again as I've said this is not my pivitol hour. 6/10

Nick James

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Home – XV (Cooking Vinyl) 02/05/05

Home have been releasing stuff since the early nineties, and I have to confess that I must shamefully raise my hand and say that I only heard of them for the first time about a year ago. Still, I liked what I heard and I will have to search out some of their earlier work and give them a proper listen.

This, their latest offering, kicks off with the entertaining “River of Gold”, which, if you listen carefully, is rather like Buffalo Tom performing Love Affair’s 1968 number one “Everlasting Love”, after which comes a rather Flaming Lips type moment in “Resist!” that is carried forward to the text message title that is “I Don’t Wanna No”.

“Zenith Place” is a darker, more intense tune that may just have been the result if you’d locked Richmond Fontaine in a room with Page and Plant. The looped piano riff towards the end of this song blends perfectly with the steadily building eventual crescendo to such an extent that this track pisses over everything else on the album.

“Consequence”, consequently (ahem…) is something of a let down after such a dazzling highlight, being a relatively formulaic pop song until the more intriguing a capella climax that tips its hat to the Beatles’ “Because”.

“Hell No” is early Teenage Fanclub all over, but twice as fast and twice as noisy, and “”Sneak Out!” bizarrely seems to feature some guitar work that would be more at home on a Boston or Supertramp album.

“All That You Want” is back to the previously mentioned mellow Scottish rockers again, and then “Train” comes along (ooh I’m full of “Countdown” style wit today aren’t I?) like an old song by The Band, effortlessly becoming another firm favourite.

“Pony Breaks” is a nicely fucked up drug ballad, as is the seven minute epic “Oh My God”, and then we have a very quirky They Might Be Giants style tune called “I Like To Dance” before the acoustic (and frankly rather feeble) finale that is “Which Way”.

Overall an interesting listen with definite peaks and troughs, mostly very likeable but occasionally a little disappointing. Worth checking out though. 6/10

Tone E

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The Dissociatives - The Dissociatives (Musichead/Virgin) 02/05/2005

Having given a distinctly average review to their current single, what are we going to make of the album?

T: You can throw more references at this than you can shake a shitty stick at. It's most definitely something of a seventies "art rock" album. You could shout Brian Eno! Peter Gabriel! John Foxx! and I wouldn't disagree with any of them...

N: David Sylvian!

T: Him too. That was my original reference, but seeing as I nicked the Peter Gabriel one off you, I'll let it slide...and now I'm hearing 10CC as well...

N: But as an album I'm definitely getting the feeling that this is working. An album for nights around a cosy fire. Quite odd!?

T: I agree. Odd that they seem to have chosen the weakest track on the album as a single, even if it IS the most commercial one!

N: I like where they've gone with the structuring here. What a departure from Silverchair! 9/10

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