Album Reviews: June 2005

 

Hayseed Dixie – A Hot Piece of Grass (Cooking Vinyl) 27/06/05

Everyone has a mate who will tell a joke that has everyone in stitches, but then will proceed to tell a dozen more, each one becoming less amusing as the time rolls on, and his audience’s smiles become more and more forced throughout.

Hayseed Dixie are a bit like that…except they’re less annoying.

When “Let There Be Rockgrass” had its first spin on my CD player, I have to admit I was on the floor in hysterics. This time though, the surprise element has gone and, although sometimes you can’t do anything but sit in wonder at the daft hillbilly versions of the songs they have chosen to cover this time around (Outkast’s “Roses”, Green Day’s “Holiday”, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire” amongst others!), you can’t help but wonder how long it’s going to be before the joke starts wearing thin.

It would appear though that Hayseed Dixie are not blissfully unaware of this awkward predicament, as they have chosen to pen half of the tracks themselves on this occasion. This is actually where the album really starts to impress.

You have to marvel at the great musicianship on “Blind Beggar Breakdown”, and “Kirby Hill” is like a traditional old folk song, containing the line “If you wanna get your head shot off, just climb up Kirby Hill”. That’s probably the highpoint of the album for me, although I’m sure Kenny Rogers would have been proud of “Uncle Virgil”! Their version of “Dueling Banjos” that finishes the album is quite splendid.

In summation, I reckon these ole country boys should release a whole album full of originals next, perhaps with two or three of their trademark lunatic covers. They’re becoming a great band in their own right, so it would be a shame to milk the cow until it collapses. 8/10

Tone E

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Karen Ann - Nolita (Metro Blue Records/EMI) 27/06/2005

Like a Denis Hopper film, this album posses an ethereal quality that sets it apart. From the breathy sometimes French vocals of Karen, to the brushed drums and strangely unfamiliar guitar chords. My iTunes categorises this albums genre as one of Jazz and this would generally be agreed with, although I found this to be really quite accessible and maybe even an album that bore the tag 'lover's jazz' or 'smooth rock', but outright jazz - maybe not.

I'll definitly be passing this way again and really found this album an easy listen and one that didn't get in the way of the days activities. It certainly proved a very calming influence. 9/10

Nick James

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The Cribs – The New Fellas (Wichita Recordings) 20/06/05

I think it’s fair to say that I will always have both very good and very bad memories of this album. The reason for this is that my dad passed away suddenly a few weeks back, and The Cribs’ latest album is the first thing that put a smile back on my face after our family’s bereavement (apart from the cat – he was a proper little trooper!).

Anyway, I’ll probably always remember this as an album that got me through a very sad time. That and Liverpool’s success in the Champion’s League (which came on the very same day as my dad’s passing – as a result, although that was one of the finest matches I’ve ever seen, I can’t look at those scenes of Gerrard holding the cup aloft without sad memories flooding back) – so it’s a good job I’m not an Everton supporter!

Down to the album then, and it’s a fabulous one. You’ll already know the remarkably brilliant singles,“Hey Scenesters” and “Mirror Kissers”, and the whole album is quite simply littered with other brilliant tracks.

My original comment, upon hearing the album, was that The Cribs had the swagger of early Oasis (“Martell”), the perfect pop sensibilities of Supergrass (“I’m Alright, Me” and “Things Aren’t Gonna Change”) and the snarly arrogance of the Sultans of Ping FC (“Hello? Oh…”), but I think you can add to that the slightly off-kilter, jangly songwriting of Mark E Smith or David Gedge’s early output with the Weddoes.

This really is a five star deluxe album, and appears to pull off the “genius” tag with absolutely no effort whatsoever. If it’s not THE best album of the year, it’s certainly in with a shout! 10/10

Tone E

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Gratitude – Gratitude (Atlantic) 20/06/05

Gratitude don’t seem to be able to make up their minds whether they are an “emo” band or an American AOR – or “soft rock” – outfit, and I feel that their album suffers from this lack of identity.

There are two or three absolutely staggeringly brilliant moments on the San Francisco band’s debut album – the truly wondrous groove of “All In a Row”, the gentle balladry of “If Ever” and the absolute infectiousness of “Sadie” are all splendid – but I fear these standouts are very few and far between.

The rest of the album veers between sounding like (as I said in the single review) the Gigolo Aunts, Yellowcard and (whisper it quietly) Hootie and the Blowfish. It’s just that it all seems a bit too “safe” at times and whilst I have nothing against this brand of Western American smooth rock, it fails to ignite any kind of passion in me for the most part. 5/10

Tone E

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Shelby Lynne - Suit Yourself (Captol/EMI) 13/06/2005

Shelby Lynne is no stranger when it comes to releasing music and yet she'd never crossed my path before. She's a Grammy awarding winning singer/songwriter, she produced this album herself (as she did its predecessor - 2003's Identity Crisis), and brininging together acclaimed musicians Michael Turner (The Wallflowers) - Drums, Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) - Keyboards, she assembled a fine cast with which to work on this album.

Although not necessarily my usual tipple, Shelby has created a remarkable album of songs whose strings leap from the speakers and dance with the listener. I was interested to see just what this artist had previously released when learning of her remarkable career from the press that accompanied and searching Amazon for details, I was inundated with over 50 results and took for granted that Sheby was indeed an artist of some experience.

With a soft patter of brushed drums and delicate keys, if you're willing to overlook the swirling guitar slides of a country refrain, then this may be worth a listen. I can't deny this albums musicality, although not necessarily ground-breaking.
7/10

Nick James

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The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers (Heavenly/EMI) 13/06/2005

I'm torn when it comes to this album. On first listen this was a shining light on the music scene and Magic Numbers are a group who've attracted a great deal of media attention of late. It's a nice kind of Mamas and Papas affair, sixties sounds and nice vocals, but in the repeated company of this album I did feel it became a little too samey.

Seeing them onstage at this years Glastonbury, I found they were the most unlikely bunch of characters, certainly in this world of 'airbrushing' and designer labels. A very musical album, but just not enough to keep my undivided attention I'm afraid. 6/10

Nick James

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Funeral For a Friend – Hours (Atlantic) 13/06/05

Continuing their explosive career with the proverbial “difficult” second album, Funeral For a Friend have decided to put the emphasis more firmly on the more melodic tendencies of the Foo Fighters, whilst not entirely turning their backs on the intricate power guitar bursts that regularly graced their debut album – inspired largely by Iron Maiden. One thing that HAS gone out of the window though is the “screamo” factor. After all, that’s SO 2004, darling.

The abundantly clear factor here is that the band have gone for a more commercial sound, sometimes with astounding results. “History”, for example, is one of the most gorgeous tracks you will hear all year, and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t released as a single at some stage – more than likely giving them their first top ten hit. “Drive” is similarly touching, but Ryan and his buddies have to be careful not to alienate their original fanbase who put them where they are now.

There’s plenty of pulsating rock here though – see the recent single “Streetcar” and the angry, frustrated “Monsters” (one of the finest moments on “Hours”) as well as the only screamo harkback to “Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation” – the ten thousand miles an hour thunderer that is “The End of Nothing”.

All in all, it’s a very well put together record and easily passes the “second album” test. If I were recommending this band to someone who’d never heard them, I’d probably tell them to buy this album first, get themselves acquainted with all the tracks on it, and by then they’ll probably be prepared for the more “in your face” choke chain approach of the band’s debut. Impressive stuff indeed. 8/10

Tone E

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The Departure – Dirty Words (Parlophone) 13/06/2005

‘Dirty Words’ is the debut album from a Northamptonshire band who only formed in 2004 and yet have toured with bands as big as ‘The Killers’ as well as producing a very professional first album.

The vocals, sung by David Jones are charming with a boyish cockney appeal and the style transverses from funky ballads to slow Kasabian-esque distorted guitars which progressively gain momentum, beckoning the eardrums. However similarities can be made with Hi-Fi, the Futureheads and other emerging bands with the same popular ingredients.

Unfortunately the fresh and edgy impression felt from the promising opening track, ‘Just Like TV’, fizzled out amongst a number of pleasant, but not entirely gripping songs. A nice mix of catchy radio-worthy riffs and atmospheric vocals that will make successful singles no doubt, but overall this album feels a tad too sombre and repetitive.7/10

David Elphick

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Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box (Domino) 06/06/2005

Their second album in under a year, well “Love The Cup” was only a mini, so I suppose this makes “The Repusion Box” a debut and with the single “Dance Me In” and only eleven minutes separating the 2 albums, this is going to one hell of a ride.

My last encounter with the group spares no rods when it comes to the fact I love this band, their raw nature fresh from the streets of Glasgow separates the wheat from the chaff. Produced by Victor Van Vugt, known for his work with PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, this echos a familiar tone when it comes to how these actually sound, a georgeously claustrophobic barking, where the bands Adele makes the most marked vocal impression on the audience.

This is gutter music of the 50’s, reborn 50 years into the future. 8/10

Nick James

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Coldplay - X&Y (Parlophone) 06/06/2005

After the weeks of hype we experienced prior to this albums release, this was going to have to be some record and sure enough by the time its release came the sticker that adered the front of my pre-released copy pro-claimed “Their best yet” (NME). And even the hardest cynic couldn’t fail to agree once the first track “Square One” had met their ears, a tune that catches the rock vibe in the widest possible nature, this was going to be an album that was going to appeal to a wide a demographic and therefore was going to be massive.

That said this should not be considered I am in any way putting the magnitude of this album down, from the first time I had the opportunity of meeting this band after the release of their first single, it was clear that only the highest of things should be expected of them and true to form, they have. These are musicians, not some kind of ‘brand’ and this album speaks more than a thousand words could.

It is clear that influences are rife here, from the U2 rock of the opening track to the Floyd’esque influence that might be heard from time to time, even the rather twee “Talk”, that unashamedly borrows from Kraftwerk’s 1981 “Computer Love”, it has to be said does take this off very well and although I might always hear the original when I hear this is a standup effort none-the-less. Of course what would every good Oasis album be missing these days if it weren’t for the Abbey Road influence that might be found on the title track and “X&Y” fills this space. Even that debut single from the album and opener for side 2 here, “Speed Of Sound” loses some of its infuriating drone that I found accompanied the many weeks that led to its release.

Sure enough these guy’s have pulled off a bit of a coup in the writing of this album and one that I’m sure will exceed the success that its predecessor “A Rush Of Blood” found. Sure enough this album may too find itself victim of retailers over exuberance, reduced in price come Christmas in 2 years, but this will never make it any less of an album. This album really is “their best yet”, although somewhat 'Coldplay', if you know where I'm coming from when I say this. 9/10

Nick James

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Alan Braxe And Friends - The Upper Cuts (Different/Pias) 06/06/2005

This album is one for all you french house goons. If you like Daft Punk, Rhinocerose, Etienne de Crecy, Alex Gopher and Bob Sinclar then you will like or already know of Alan Braxe. As one third of Stardust, along with Thomas Bangalter and Ben Diamond, he is responsible for one of house musics all time greats, Music sounds better with you.

This album will bring to you some tracks you may have never heard of before and some that you certainly will have heard before, but the quality is assured. From the near global consciousness of Music sounds better with you to the underground classics like Rubicon and Palladium the unerring musicality shines through. Even within the simplistic, repetitive, romance of The Paradise In love with you, you will find melodies that refuse to leave your musical awareness.

The overall feel is funky yet laid back intense yet gentle. This is a collection of some of the best house music ever produced, you must experience this!

If you like house music buy this album! If you like French house music definitely buy this album! 9/10

Nic Caesar

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Kraftwerk - Minimum-Maximum (EMI) 06/06/2005

One of the most influential band’s in pop history, these German pioneers of electro-pop still today see those climbing the dizzying heights in music refering to the group for inspiration. Electronic acts, take your pick and more recently I note Coldplay being the latest in a long line of artists to have been touched. If you’re unfamiliar when it comes to mainlining the original article, then this is as good a place as any, apart from a minor “whooping”, the music appears to take control here, allowing the listener to answer questions like; what came first, the chicken or the egg?

22 tracks, 110 minutes plus taken from a tour that last year saw the group play 69 shows, across the world. putting this possibly most sampled band out there and in amazing clarity. As a starting refernce this is a wonderful trip, but for full clarity there is none better than the digital coldness of the original articles, although when “Home Computer” stikes up it did bring forth thoughts of an Orwellian world, complete with big brother and the thought police. 7/10

Nick James

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Various - It’s All Gote Pete Tong (o.s.t.) (EMI) 06/06/2005

The sound track to one of the most uplifting films since Spinal Tap first got their rocks off. This double album was compiled, mixed and programmed by Ben Cherill and James Doman, and is presented in two distinct shades, day and night. These are represented by the two discs available and like many a good mix album, you get your good and not so good assets to these two shades representing the ‘life’ of Frankie Wilde.

I found CD1 or ‘Day’ to become somewhat sluggish although this was perhaps the ‘chillout’ or morning after side and without the night to preceed this, was destined to become so. My advice would be to ignore the labels and head straight for CD2 or ‘Night’, a collection that just went balistic, mixed to perfection and compiled in a way that represented the film best. This was a headstrong collection of tunes that weren’t just a compilation album or soundtrack and even though I was unfamiliar with many of the tracks presented, this didn’t matter and I once again sank into the best film since Nigel Tufnel plugged in a guitar and turned his Marshall stack up to ‘11’, long live Frankie Wilde, the greatest ever DJ to grace the island of Ibiza.

If you’ve not seen the film “It’s All Gone Pete Tong”, then do either rent, buy or catch a late showing of this movie, but for now here’s a taster of what to expect from the tracklisting of this album;

Disc: 1

1. 808 State - Pacific State (Massey's Conga Mix)
2. Lol Hammond - Cloud Watch
3. Graham Massey - Dry Pool Suicide
4. Graham Massey - Moonlight Sonata
5. Lol Hammond - Baby Piano
6. Pete Tong - Ku Da Ta
7. Moroccan Blonde - Mirage
8. Beta Band - Troubles
9. Lucienne Boyer - Parlez-Moi D'Amour
10. Reflekt feat. Delline Bass - Need To Feel Loved (Horizontal Mix)

11. Beta Band - It's Over
12. Depeche Mode - Halo (Goldfrapp Remix)
13. Afterlife - How Does It Feel?
14. Ferry Corsten & Shelley Harland - Holding On
15. Fragile State - Four-Four-Four
16. Penguin Café Orchestra - Music For A Found Harmonium
17. Graham Massey - Learning To Lip-Read
18. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
19. Interlude
20. Barefoot - White Lines

Disc: 2

1. Intro
2. Schwab - DJs In A Row
3. Deep Dish - Flashdance (Raul Rincon Remix)
4. Juggernaut - Good To Go mixed with Christophe Monier & DJ Pascal Représentent - Rock That House Musiq
5. Black Rock featuring Debra Andrew - Bluewater (Original Mix)
6. Shapeshifters - Back To Basics (Main Vocal Mix)
7. Scent - Up & Down (Superclub)
8. Pete Tong presents Lingua Franca - Serendipity

9. Jaydee - Plastic Dreams 2003 (Tayo & Acid Rockers Remix)
10. Ferry Corsten - Rock Your Body Rock (Rennie Pilgrem Remix)
11. Doublefunk feat. Frankie Wilde - Can You Hear Me Now? (Cub Mix)
12. Trisco - Musak (Original)
13. Filterheadz - Yimanya
14. Reflekt feat. Delline Bass - Need To Feel Loved (Seb Fontaine's & Jay P's TYPE Remix)
15. Pete Tong & Chris Cox - More Intensity
16. Orbital - Frenetic (Short Mix)

Play this album in the right context. 7/10

Nick James

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Electric Soul Volume 3 - Summer Sunset (Electricchair/Pias) 06/06/2005

This is yet another class collection of new and upcoming talent from the Electric Chair people. Having reviewed the previous volumes in the series I was no less pleased with the selection of music on show in this volume. The only difference is that some of the names are beginning to become familiar.

The album is a journey from soft melodic new soul gems, through to more up beat Jazz infused house beats, superbly mixed and blended by the Unabombers. The sound is certainly left of centre to what most soul fans would have in their cd collection and yet it resonates with familiarity and warmth.

Tracks worthy of special mention include Joey Negros Sunburst Band with Far Beyond, the now well known Sia with Where I belong, Plant life with When she smiles she lights up the sky(See Single reviews for more detail on this one), D Wynn & R Tyme Production with Love in Music and Jazztronic with Samurai.

Altogether a class act here with great musicality superb mixing and track selection and on top of all this live dates to boot! Sweet! Remaining lives dates will be the 28th and 29th May and 18th June and 2nd July. 9/10

Nic Caesar

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Marc Bolan & T.Rex - Born To Boogie (o.s.t.) (Santuary Records) 06/06/2005

A double album born to comemorate the re-issuing of the film “Born To Boogie”, a restored and remixed version of the concert filmed live at the Empire Pool in Wembley, 1972. Marc Bolan had unfortunatly met his untimely mortal end by the time I had turned 7 years old and although my awareness was not yet fully ignited, Marc’s legacy lives on in his style, music and lyrics to this very day.

Disc 1 of this set is ‘The Motion Picture Soundtrack’, Coldplay - with contributions from Elton John and Ringo Starr (also the director of this 1972 concert film). Whereas on Disc 2, you’ll find the electrifying concert itself , which it has to be said will finish sooner than you are aware.

This whole set, is well recorded, performed and put together, featuring suitable sound-bites and even poetry. Not having yet experienced the film for myself, does encourage me to journey back 33 years and catch what must have been a remarkable live event. 7/10

Nick James

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