Album Reviews: July 2003

 

Scaramanga Six - Strike! Up The Band (Wrath Records)

Hailing from Huddersfield, Scaramanga Six's album was originally released back in March, and regretfully we missed out on the review then. However, we have since seen the error of our ways and have decided to include one in this issue to coincide with one of this month's excellent Atomicduster competitions. If you have never heard the band, allow me to quote this description from the press release: "Soulful and subtle, yet always adventurous and abrasive, Scaramanga six possess all the makings of a classic band. These guys (and two girls) have obviously been playing in bands for quite a while, but there's a maturity here that doesn't sound like the work of zit encrusted teenagers". Well, quite.

N: Where exactly would you place this band? And before you give me your answer, may one suggest before receiving an enema, but after a good breakfast?

T: I think I'd place them under "catchy and creative, but who perhaps should have been committed years ago"! Their sound is seriously screwed up yet surprisingly addictive.

N: How on earth did we miss this band? Intelligent lyrics, great melody, and you're right - the straitjackets plainly in sight. Am I the only one, or can you see influences derived from Neil Hannon?

T: Definitely. The Divine Comedy after drinking a cocktail of Domestos and orange juice...9/10

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The Star Spangles - Bazooka!!! (Parlophone)

The Star Spangles were formed out of teenage boredom in suburban upstate New York, and immediately set about shaking the Big Apple to its feet. This, the band's debut album, was recorded while the four mop topped punksters were in their late teens and finished off in the bedroom of Ramones' producer Daniel Rey.

T: Sounding more like The Only Ones with every listen, The Star Spangles at least make relatively infectious noises with their full on overdrive pedals. They would easily have fitted in with the seventies punk explosion, but the fact still remains that they're 26 years too late.

N: I still want to become a fan of this group. I regret I'm not too keen on their latest single, featured in pole position here, but track two "Which Of the Two of Us is Gonna Burn This House Down?" is heading into the right territory.

T: I think the best description I can give is that this is pretty good, predictable punk. In fact I'd call it more New Wave than Punk.

N: I'd go as far to say that these guys are someone's "pet band". They so look the part that it's hard to reach any other judgment. If somebody had done the same with Birdland circa '91, those guys would probably have been heading towards double figures in album releases.

T: I have got to say that is the BEST reference I have ever heard you come out with. Would you like me to take my tongue out of your arse now?

N: Yes please, it's beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. 6/10

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KV5 - Natural Science (Prolifica)

This album is a pleasing blend of uplifting vocal tunes and atmospheric, funky instrumental journeys. I really like it a lot.

Tracks most worthy of mention start with the first track on the cd! 'I's of a child' is a jazzy two step number with happy and positive summer vocals. Sonically you can tell at this point the album is going to sound great and the production is sharp. The other vocal favourite for me was 'Flying right'. A genuine summer bouncer, not too obvious musically just a nice little trotter that bounces you in to a good mood.

Of the instrumental tracks, which are all great in one way or another, 'Shelter Melter' and 'Large Foot' are the pick of the crop for me. Although the final track on the album is very interesting. 'Heaving Hearts' brings pleading female vocals to lead you on a journey through a sonic wilderness of flanges, reverbs, hissing synths and refracted basslines. A short but very cool track.

Overall a tidy blend of gentle electronica fused with laid back funk and soul, finished with a dark jazzy glaze. My only criticism would be that, as I liked the vocal stuff so much, that I would like to have heard more. That is a purely selfish request!! 9/10

Nic Caesar


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Rocket Science - Contact High (Eat Sleep Records)

Four years on from when Rocket Science first burst forth from the "murky depths of the Australian music scene", Roman Tucker and company have finally released their second album to follow their debut "Welcome to the 3C-10". Having claimed the "Single of the Month" and been featured as one of our interview pieces for this issue of Atomicduster, the Melbourne based four piece aim to make it a hat trick of success with the new long player.

T: I'll let you take centre stage here, as you already know I think this album's the gopher's gonads.

N: (with trembling fingertips, I lift the tiny silver platter into the recepticle of my digital sound giant). I'll tell you who these first bring forth, and that's memories of INX's 1980 debut, with none of the ska leanings, but still with the same potent energy bursts.

T: There are some astonishing tracks on this album, most notably "Being Followed" with an uneasy intensity and a cracking hook, "One Robot" with a beat to die for, and the more experimental ones like "Hyperspace" and "Tomorrow's Soundtrack for Today's Swinging Generation".

T: I agree. These are definitely up there with the Aussies' finest independent output. Some strong tunes that altogether go to construct a fine album. The question I'm left wondering is how good (or not) was their earlier album? Can someone send us a copy? 9/10

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Various - Electric Soul blended by The Unabombers (Electric Chair/Pias)

Compilation albums sometimes have a tendency to be about all the chart stormers that radio one or similar have cained to death. Then some monkey expects you to pay good money to buy tracks that you never want to hear again.....ever!!!!

Thankfully I can say this is not the case here. This compilation, which is nicley blended throughout, represents a mix of sexy, sassy soul and funk tunes that the average person wont have heard many times, if at all.

It inlcudes artists such as Amp Fiddler (previously reviewed by yours truly for AD), Jassanova and James Mason to name a few. It bills itself as modern soul and it is a mixture of r&b vocal tracks and more funky, dance orientated tracks with minimal vocal and more beats and bass.

This compilation offers a little bit extra to the average soul fan and will take you in directions previously not considered. For those of us that are already down with 'modern soul' it is a beautiful collection of contempory tracks. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Liam Lynch - Fake Songs (Liberty)

Cult Geek-hero Lynch achieved a massive commercial success with the tongue in cheek "United States of Whatever" recently, and really it remains to be seen whether the novelty value will wear off, or if he can carry the impetus forward in his own inimitable style. For those who do not know, Liam Lynch was the creator, co-writer, musician, actor, director and executive producer of MTV'S "Sifl and Olly" show which ran daily for two seasons. He also was the director of hit videos for the likes of Foo Fighters and Tenacious D.

N: I wasn't surprised to learn of his involvement with the latter mentioned, and the same question did come to mind. I bored fairly quickly of Tenacious D and am concerned that this may suffer the same fate. I do have to say though, that having...(trails off)

T: Bananas for tea?

N: No thanks. But returning to our sensibilities, the content here does contain a far more educated take on the comedy genre.

T: Though if I may be so bold, these tracks would in fact be better off where they originated from - as shorts on an MTV channel. A not unimpressive album - in fact it's rather amusing at times, but here's my point - "Mummy I just won a coconut at the fair. I can't wait to take it home". "That's nice. What are you going to do with your coconut when you get it home?" "What coconut?"

N: In other words, what you're saying is that it's instantly forgettable. If we had to find one reason this album were made, that would have to be track two, the recent single "United States of Whatever" which IS actually memorable. 6/10

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Motion City Soundtrack - I Am the Movie (Epitaph)

Having just wrapped up a tour of the States with the All-American Rejects, this Minneapolis outfit have recently signed with Epitaph and this is the resultant debut album.

N: Great name, but I can't sya this has got enough that will make this a great album to my ears. Altogether very ordinary.

T: It sounds like (and I knwo you're going to give me a strange look here), a Robot Wars style fight between The Police and The Monkees on two turbo charged steamrollers, whilst Blink 182 churn angry guitars in protest.

N: I really do think you should give up the caffeine, but I do quite like the way the singer is phrasing his vocals. Just whether they'd end up annoying me I'm not sure.

T: Can't you hear a Sting like quality (circa "Outlandos D'Amour" in the vocals?

N: Yes. As a die hard fan of the group from the early days, that would be it then. But in truth, the songs themselves don't possess that same quality. 5/10

 
 

 

Bruce Cockburn - You've Never Seen Everything (Cooking Vinyl)

This Canadian rocker has a career that spans over three decades and is just a couple of years shy of his sixtieth birthday. Cockburn set his sights on a musical career after growing up listening to Elvis records. A prolific writer with a previous twenty seven albums to his name, we thought he was worth a listen at least.

T: I think you've gotta give fair dues to a guy who's still going for it by the time he gets his bus pass. But allow me to be extremely childish for one moment - does this make your cockburn?

N: Both of us being in sound relationships, I don't think either of us should confess to this being the case! Can you imagine the awkward questions we'd have to answer. And we're here to talk about the bloody music!

T: Er...I WAS talking about the music...

N: Oh. Well...you've never seen everything, as perhaps Bruce is claiming to do here. Maybe a slightly less Irish Van Morrison, or a slightly older Bryan Adams.

T: Personally I'd take Cockburn over Bryan Adams any day. Umm...

N: Musically this is extremely solid. But I have to be honest and confess that it's not making anything burn much.

T: I think it's one of those albums that you'd stick on to soothe you if you were having a particularly awkward dump.

N: You might say that - I take prunes in the morning myself. But it IS an interesting journey. 7/10

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John Foxx - Crash and Burn (Metamatic)

From one old timer to another, John Foxx...yes you heard right, could so easily be described as a nearly man of the changing music scenes, havijng been asked to join Roxy Music after Bryan Ferry left, left Ultravox before their ultra-success, and was approached by The Clash in the early days of the punk scene. Preferring a more low key, maybe even underground approach to his work, Foxx's only real commercial success came in 1983 with the Top 40 singles "Underpass", "No-one Driving" and "Burning Car". Well now he's back...with a difference.

T: Whoa! What happened to this guy? This is such an innovative release that it makes you wonder how huge he would have been if he'd actually followed the path to tinseltown without veering off through all the distracting nooks and crannies along the way.

N: Now this IS certainly very interesting. Maybe it's the history it comes attached with. I do however consider that it possesses a quality that doesn't just remind you, but screams "Eighties, Eighties Eighties!" at you. That's in no way a putdown, but I can't help hearing Tourists.

T: Really? I can hear more Phil Oakey than anything else...

N: Yeah I can see that too, but however we look at it, this album certainly is innovative with a capital "I". 9/10

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Skin - Fleshwounds (EMI)

Skunk Anansie's frontwoman returns with another mixture of rock, amazing vocals and "disarmingly honest" lyrics.

T: There's no denying it. She's got one hell of a voice this girl...

N: Voice certainly, but she also attracts the musicians to assist her in the production of a great work. In fact, I have noticed that she worked with Guy Chambers (of House of Love) fame here.

T: Odd though, that she chose to release "Trashed" as the first single from the album, seeing as, from what I've heard, the rest of the tracks drop their trousers to that one.

T: Though personally, I think the reason that "Trashed" was first released was because of its immediacy. Seems to have worked anyway. 7/10

 
 

 

The Darkness - Permission To Land (Must Destroy Music)

This is what frontman Justin says of their long awaited debut album: "It's less of a request to moor the good ship DArkness, rather a demand to shift the rest of the shite cluttering up Rock's runway".

T: I know we shouldn't admit this, but why is it that we always laugh when this band comes on?

N: Ok, it's because this guy still sounds like someone's trying to goose him from behind. I find this to be taking away from the music, but people are not gonna forget it, I'll say that. It does leave me wondering just how his stage show is put across.

T: But don't you think the ones where he isn't doing his best Aled Jones impression are a lot more preferable to the others?

N: That was going to be my next comment. Musically far superior, but really this guy just can't help himself.

T: It sounds like Saxon with Minnie Mouse on vocals. 6/10

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Cody Chestnutt - The Headphone Masterpiece (One Little Indian)

Feeling like he has something of a point to prove after his previous band The Crosswalk was sent packing by Hollywood Records due to a "political label treachery". Cody Chestnutt has released this, his own musical diary.

T: This is a bit of an oddity. On the one hand, half the album is wonderful and could sit alongside even some of Marvin Gaye's finest work, some of it ambles along pleasantly in a Spek kind of way, but some of it is the most tuneless racket you'll ever hear in your entire life.

N: This could well be a 21st century Lenny Kravitz. There are an amalgamation of references - not just those previously mentioned, but even a less funked up Prince. Or a rocked down Hendrix.

T: Basically, if you turn this album up loud, you can hear all the notes that Mr.Chestnutt is failing to hit, and trust me, there are more than a couple of handfuls of those. Now, if this had just been a single album of about eleven tracks, maybe twelve, it could have been an instant classic. However, some of the other ones are sung worse than the UK's recent Eurovision entry by Jemini.

N: I can't make my mind up whether this is intentionally lazy, or an album that has just strucjk the good fortune to get published. To be honest, I can't see the latter happening. It's probably more the point - it's a two fingers up to the industry bods that first cast him aside.

T: And much kudos to the guy for that, if it is indeed the case. 7/10

 
 

 

Serafin - No Push Collide (Taste)

Twelve slices of hard edged melodic rock. Serafin share their home at Taste Records with Muse and have been enjoying strong press, radio and TV support lately and "Things Fall Apart" made number one on MTV2's "Most Wanted" chart.

T: Given the clout of the guy who produced this album, DAve Sardy (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marilyn Manson), you'd expect this to be an excellent release. And guess what? It is.

N: This is a great album, but I can't help thinking that maybe it's a shade too close to being the album produced by the younger brothers of stablemates Muse.

T: Yeah I can definitely see that. But I think it stands on its own two feet as well.

N: I didn't say it couldn't. But the similarities are astounding. To recap my initial thoughts, those were immediacy, and this really is a great album. 8/10

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Ace Sounds - Still Hungry (Snapper)

Well, we reviewed Skin earlier, so why not review Skunk Anansie's former guitarist's new album. Ace was very much considered the driving force behind the band, so let's see just HOW important he was.

N: I'll tell you what, this sounds just like Perry Farrell.

T: Being backed by Kiss, perhaps?

N: Yeah I'll go along with that. But this album does possess more than its fair share of musical turns, and a cast to make the friendless blush.

T: Some good tracks, some weak ones and the odd great one here and there. Not bad for a first effort.

N: Those perfomers featured her have certainly been allowed to stamp their mark on this album. 7/10

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UB40 - The Platinum Collection (Labour Of Love I, II & III (Virgin)

T: Allow me to do the introductions here. UB40 were a decent Brummie reggae band who made some important records like "The Earth Dies Screaming" and "One In Ten". Then they hit the big time and released loads of rubbish cover versions for the rest of their career, most of which can be found on these reissues of their three worst albums.

N: Perhaps the most famous, and certainly richest karaoke band of all time though. The West Midlands did in fact produce some fantastic output in the guise of The Specials and The Beat to name but a couple, and it's a shame that Ali Campbell and co didn't follow this leadership. 3/10

 
 

 

Slo-Mo - Slo-Mo (Circus)

Here at Atomicduster, we gave the blinding "Death of a Raver" the accolades it deserved last year when it came out, and it is with some anticipation that this debut album was received. BBC Radio One predicted recently that David Gledhill's band are likely to have their moment very, very soon. Many comparisons have been made, the most consistently recurring being Stereo MC's and the Smiths. But is this album as good as we hoped?

N: Now let's cut to the chase. Headed by, in our opinion, one of the greatest singles to grace last year, Slo-Mo have finally got enough of their act together in producing what will no doubt be one of the greatest albums of the year, whilst at the same time, as it stands at the moment, one of the most invisible releases of the year. I sincerely hope that I'm wrong there.

T: When you look at all the bands this four piece has been compared to, it astonishes me that the band they remind me most of - Mansun - have remained unmentioned. there are moments (probably owing to the dreamy backing vocals) that bring Prefab Sprout's "From Langley Park to Memphis" album hurtling at full speed toward my mind". Not that any of this is bad of course. It all adds up to a tremendous album that culminates with one of the best tracks you will ever hear to close an album, the suicide note like "Tell Them I Had a Good Time".

N: I love the influences used in the production of this album. Influences that would escape many, from Serge Gainsborg to the more apparent references of screen greats like "Pulp Fiction". The collision of sounds from The Specials to Langley Park to Memphis I think stand as a testimony to this group. They were a great group at the release of their debut single. The release of their debut album doesn't just hint anymore. 9/10

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I Am Kloot - I Am Kloot (Echo)

This is the follow up to Kloot's debut album "Natural History". the band were formed nearly four years ago and only had to play a handful of gigs before gaining the attention of critics and locals alike.

T: A bit of an oddity here, as in my opinion, three quarters of this album is outstanding indie pop. There are 12 tracks, and when you consider what I just said, I suppose nine tracks of the highest quality is pretty good going. The only place the album falls a little short is when the guys sound a little too much like Oasis. Maybe it's just the Manchester accent that does it, but let's not have that clouding our judgment here. This is indeed an extremely good album, especially on the superb singles "Life In A Day" and "Untitled #1". Other noteable tunes are the dark and moody "Here For The World" and "3 Feet Tall", and there is no shortage of gems.

N: Oasis?! We're obviously going to differ here. My opinion is that of Crowded House. I can see the songs contain good structure and songwriting, but they're just not catchy enough to sustain an audience's attention - maybe one of Sting or Pink Floyd. Just have your lighters at hand.

T: I think you're right about us disagreeing here because I think this is great chilled out stuff. Do you want a fight about it?

N: Obviously not chilled out enough. Alright, playground at lunchtime. 7/10

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Iron Maiden - Visions of the Beast (DVD) (EMI)

Kicking off their incredible career at the tail end of the seventies, Iron Maiden were regulars in the UK Top 40 for well over 20 years, undergoing changes of singers over the years but keeping their own much emulated style along the way.

T: This really takes me back to my "spotty teen" years, but I remember those times fondly, and these anthems and videos alike are instantly recognisable even if you were never a follower. This would appear to be one of those "You don't have to be a fan to like this" kind of DVD's, as it seems to have something for everyone and is ultimately just a hugely entertaining work.

N: Watching this again, it's easy to see where Spinal Tap got their impetus from. These are truly songs of anthemic quality. And as far as songwriting goes, they really do more than hold their own.

T: From a time when lyrics really were lyrics, and music really ROCKED. 9/10

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Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance (Island)

A, Hundred Reasons, Jimmy Eat World, Just For Kids, New Found Glory…need I go on? There’s an alarming intake of emo bands going around at the moment. I was quite excited at first at the prospect of blowing all this so called “reality pop” clean out of the water, but then I realised that so many of these bands are just a one trick pony. Thrice sound like all of these bands plus Funeral For a Friend and the Deftones for the most part and it’s all just getting so mind numbingly dull now. 5/10

Tone E

 
 

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