Album Reviews: July 2004

 

Rico – Violent Silences (Manufractured)

Excuse me while I pick my jaw off the floor, because this really is a PHENOMENAL album!

Strangely, there were several instances here where I thought “Sounds a bit like Tricky” and “bit of Gary Numan there”, before I read the associated blurb and realised that both of them had actually featured on the album! Ah well, at least that shows I’m paying attention…

Rico himself went through “utter mental chaos” and admits to becoming near-alcoholic during the making of “Violent Silences”. Now, without wanting to sound too unkind here, I’m GLAD it was that way, because the whole thing comes across beautifully on record…and the darker the better, if you ask me!

It’s a deeply disturbing recording, and Rico comes across as though he were Glasgow’s answer to Marilyn Manson.

Homage is paid to, amongst others, Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” (in “Freefall”), Faithless (“Recommended Dose”) and Talking Heads (in the form of an incredibly twisted, blistering version of “Psycho Killer”).

The title track here is a welcome relief from the overwhelmingly macabre feel of the rest of the album, but remains remarkably intense. Anyway, you could pick out practically any track from “Violent Silences” and it would send shudders down your spine, so much feeling is packed within each composition.

Close the polls for “Best Album of 2004”. Rico wins it hands down. 10/10

Tone E

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Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy (Good Records)

I think the 'Polyphonic Spree' are somewhat of a musical enigma with their debut album never reaching the top 75, whilst still clocking up sales in the order of 200,000. Even I cannot recall if I have the band's debut album or not, such is the disarray of my record collection at the moment. Something in my 'water' does suggest that I may, as this group certainly sound familiar to me, but that could well have been the dodgy chicken I had last night, I'm sure I'll find out, either that or I wont be editing this title anymore - permanently!

Anyway and back to the band's second album and whichever way you look at it this is some fantastic work. Eclectic, although still totally absorbing. A case of 'Syd Barratt' meets 'The Beatles' circa 1967, the brass section used often harking back to that of 'Sgt Pepper'. Although the 'Syd' influence heard early on could just be a result of that 'dodgy chicken', as once the album proceeds into full swing I would say that it is clear that 'Water's' and his 'Final Cut' shine through and that's no bad thing.

Perhaps the reason this band have never achieved outstanding public recognition in any 'league tables' is that they're not 'pop' and unlike the 'shooting stars' that burn-out in their achievement of this title and the those others that fall foul of the mistress of fashion, The Spree seem content with producing sounds for the serious music head.

The group having taken the unlikely of calling this not just the follow-up to that of their debut, but numbering this as such (i.e. sections 11 thru 20). Outstanding moments coming in the form of the forthcoming single 'Hold Me Now', 'Two Thousand Places', where Floyd's 'The Gunner's Dream' was a haunting reminder and '(Everything Starts At The Seem)', brief, but perfectly formed.

This album should not be listened to in terms of single tracks, as this is most certainly an 'Album' and as such should hold an almost timeless appeal. A truly deserving - 10/10

Nick James

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XisLoaded – Raw Nerve (Music For Nations)

It’s a pity, this. I really wanted to like this album, and I tried, I really did. Trouble is, all the way through it, I had these inner demons gnawing at my ear and bellowing “This band is just a poor man’s version of The Music”, and I couldn’t shake that thought from my head. And give or take one or two tunes, I don’t even like THEM very much…

I admit, “Thirteen Days” was a great single. And “Laugh, Point and Wave” had its own promise too. Sadly though, these two tracks are by far the strongest ones on the album. The only other one that could have whipped me into a frenzy was the outstanding “Bleeding the Shapes”, but being as near to the end of the album as it is, that was far too late.

Let me look into my XisLoaded crystal ball…I see big hair. I see cheesy pop videos. Worst of all, I see….Europe! No, not the continent – I’m talking Joey Tempest here!
Sorry guys, this is just too poodle perm for my liking.

Still, nothing would please me more than for the guys in this band to prove me wrong and for me to eat several bowls of humble pie; they are, after all, one of the hardest working bands on the rock circuit.

Overall, a mish mash of tunes that all too often lapse into the “bland” category. 5/10

Tone E

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Ozric Tentacles – Eternal Wheel – the Best of Ozric Tentacles (Snapper Music)

“Oh GREAT “ I thought to myself sarcastically when this dropped through my door, “I can’t WAIT to hear this”…

The funny thing is, most people have heard of Ozric Tentacles, and most of those people will pull a kind of “confused grimace” at the mention of their name. I was like that. Right up until the moment I realised I’d never actually heard anything BY them!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised on that score. Now, I’ve scorned many artists in the past whose music I have felt sounded a little too much like it could have been used for Central Jobfinder, but when that kind of stuff’s done to THIS standard, well, maybe I’ll be setting my video for that Hospital Caretaker’s job in Long Eaton after all…

It’s actually quite an entrancing CD (actually it’s a double album) and comes beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve with a lengthy history of the band’s evolution. You just can’t fault that.

Excuse my ignorance. They really weren’t a bad band at all! 8/10

Tone E

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Sons And Daughters - Love The Cup (Domino)

Remember that really cheesy weekday afternoon soap thing imported from '7 Network' in Australia, that played to audiences throughout the UK during the late eighties? No, well you didn't miss much, but from my research it looks like it may've been picked up by Channel 5, so either you've already seen it or are about to. Go on, just out of interest take a peek.

What's this got to do with the debut 'mini-album' from these name-sakes, well nothing really, but just to say they've not taken lead from the shows title music - hallelujah! But following what was described as an 'A&R scrum' (taken literally this could've been interesting to see) this Glaswegian band have been allowed to take their sound to a wider audience than shows with 'Franz Ferdinand' and 'Dogs Die In Hot Cars' courtesy of label 'Domino'.

With skiffle beat running through their sound and a mighty pounding that commences proceedings, this band could be described as having been caught taking in the sounds of 'PJ Harvey', such is the structure of songs, not withstanding one half of the vocal commitments offered up by Adele Bethal. One thing is for certain though this band aren't your regular 'copy-cats' as further to that I cannot make another direct comparison. This group have certainly taken influence from various sources, but these don't seem to clog their sound and instead brings out what is a quite original take on alternative music from recent times.

7 tracks, playing to just over 25 minutes, outstanding tracks come in the form of 'Blood' and the gutsy 'Johnny Cash', but who am I kidding this album's certainly worth checking out. 8/10

Nick James

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The Hidden Cameras – Mississauga Goddam (Rough Trade)

It might appear to the casual listener that The Hidden Cameras are a middle-of-the-road, “safe” band with pretty tunes and solid harmonies that are mainstream enough to float onto the Radio 2 playlist. In truth, if you listen closely to their lyrics, they are often gut wrenchingly shocking, yet at the same time knee-jerkingly hilarious!

I mean, take for instance the most notorious line from “Music Is My Boyfriend” – “I kissed his ugly gangly greens, he swallowed my pee”. Euwww! Even so, that line makes me want to burst out laughing every time I hear it!

Aside from that, there are a lot of standout moments on this album – opening track “Doot Doot Plot” is Brian Wilson on uppers, and “That’s When the Ceremony Starts” has a kind of intimate mood to it that is actually quite endearing.

They left the best until last though – the title track that closes this album is a symphony on a grand scale, and reminds you just how good a band The Hidden Cameras are. 8/10

Tone E

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BJ Cole – Trouble in Paradise (Cooking Vinyl)

BJ Cole has been around for a long time and has made a name for himself as a steel guitar genius. More recently his collaboration with Luke Vibert brought him in to new circles. This album and the collaborations represent a fusion of styles that are all so different but also all linked in some way.

The title track sounds like some drunken journey home from a south Pacific night on the town. Interesting stuff! The ‘Interloper’ feat Fluid unleashes a funky guitar riff and chattering breakbeats. Really good! You are then hit with the Alabama 3 collaboration ‘Are you ready for some country?’, a hugely atmospheric track with sinister vocals.

The whole album is atmospheric though it maybe the steel guitar, but each track has a cinematic feel to it, conjuring visuals all the time. ‘Alert the Sax Police’ featuring Nottingham’s Bent is a good example. A lush combination of latin beats and soulful sax, it brings back memories of last summer sitting on a Cuban beach, sipping rum cocktails, listening to the originators of Samba and Son.

All the remaining tracks do the same thing, the Groove Armada collaboration ‘Beautiful’ is funky and more upbeat with a deeper house feel. Other tracks I recommend you seriously have a listen to are ‘Downtown Motel Blues’ featuring Neil Conti and the final track on the album ‘Ou sait ou elle va’ featuring the stunning vocals of Laura B.

All in all this is a perfect summer album with lots of interest. Released 12th July. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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They Might Be Giants – The Spine (Cooking Vinyl)

They haven’t changed a great deal since their eponymous debut album way back in 1986, but then why should they? John Linnell and John Flansburgh have covered such ground and so many musical styles over that period that the surprise element has somewhat disappeared these days.

That’s not a criricism though – this latest offering (their 10th – count ‘em) contains some fine tunes indeed that are more than a hint as to why the legendary Pixies frontman Frank Black rates them as one of his favourite bands.

For instance, the quite wonderful “Memo To Human Resources” is a hark back to the early days of “Ana Ng”, and another nostalgic nod is given on “Wearing a Raincoat”, reminding me, as it did, of “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” – also from their best album (in my humble opinion), “Lincoln”.

For too long now, the pair have been labelled as “geeky” or “quirky” college pop (though it’s difficult to deny the fact) and this is probably what has hindered them from becoming the huge act they deserve to be. Then again, I guess the fact that the band has sold in excess of three million records and is regularly asked to write music for Hollywood movies and well known TV comedies means they HAVE become massive.

Anyways, there’s not much else I can say really. They Might Be Giants have simply added another very strong album to an already impressive catalogue. 8/10

Tone E

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TAZ – Analyze This (Def Jam UK)

If you’ve heard of Dizzee rascal and like what he’s about you’ll like this a lot. This is first class British Urban music. Tough lyrics beats and bass but done with finesse and style, UK style.

Taz is a young producer that first came to our attention when he received an Ivor Novello nomination as the co-producer of ‘Just a Rascal’ by Dizzee Rascal. Since then he has been let loose to produce his own album. I have to say its pretty good. It retains a very street edge to it and lyrically its as real as its gets but the talent in the production seems to smooth off some of the rough edges leaving the rest to add drama.

The first track of note is ‘Fast Talk’, a lyrically straight talking r&b track with great atmos. Then you’re gifted ‘Wish U Luck’, which is a hard look at true friendships and the jealousy that oozes from the haters. Great production again with strings and synths in perfect harmony. The album has a strong sense of humour that is highlighted in tracks like ‘Cowboy Film’ and ‘Just Walk’. Its realistic piss taking fun with serious tongue in cheeks lyrics and this is made more credible by the production quality.

The best track for me lyrically and musically is ‘ Only if U try’. It has a positive message without being soppy as shit and reminds me of the Ms Dynamite track ‘It takes more’ that became a notorious anti – bling anthem.

The album has several different styles included with the ragga/dancehall influences on ‘If I die tomorrow’ with its fat drop bass and ‘Imagine this’ featuring stablemate Terri Walker that is a more typical UK r&b track.

All in all a brilliant album musically and lyrically. Taz is not trying to purely cash in but to express himself artistically. For this reason I think it won’t be massive commercially but he will have a massive following with those in the know! 9/10

Nic Caesar

 
 

 

The Kingsbury Manx - Aztec Disipline (Cooking Vinyl)

I must confess this didn’t grab me at all on first listen. Give it a second spin though and it occurs to you there is more depth to this band than originally met the ear.

It would be easy to dismiss The Kingsbury Manx as Simon and Garfunkel wannabes but there’s far more to them than that. Take for instance “Growler In the Rumbleseat” (a great title, incidentally!) – a Beatles-just-before-they-started-indulging type of track that is peppered (sorry – unintentional pun, honest!) with pretty melodies and harmonies.

What first of all sounds like it’s going to be a fairly pleasant folk/country album surprises you occasionally with tracks like the glorious “Dinner Bell”, and if Pink Floyd weren’t on the playlist when they wrote that track I will wear my dirty underpants as an earring for the next fortnight.

“Pinstripes” sounds like the remaining members of The Doors have popped in for a bit of action and there are several other delightful moments to be found herein.

Having said that, sometimes the album meanders a bit too much for my liking and you find yourself staring at the wall for 8 minutes before remembering that you were listening to an album!

Pretty good is the verdict. 7/10

Tone R

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