Album Reviews: August 2005

 

Baxter Drury - Floorshow (Rough Trade) 22/08/05

T: This is Drury's follow up to his highly acclaimed debut album "Parrot's Memorial Lift", and it's certainly an interesting one. While "Cocaine Man" comes across as the bad boy brother of Street Band's "Toast", other tracks evoke mories of Levitation and often sounds like a nostalgic nod back to the evolution of the late 80s indie music scene.

N: A cheeky little album where Harry Palmer meets the Beta Band in a club somewhere off Soho Square and get stung for the price of a coke. There's definitely something hypnotic about Baxter Drury's floorshow that although won't make it universally popular, will give Drury and co a cache and underground appeal that will live on.

T: I have to say that, given all the new and oh so trendy labels that are putting out the same old mainstream stuff at the moment, Rough Trade are still one of the record companies with their finger firmly on the pulse at present and I think they deserve great credit for turfing up another gem.

N: In fact on listening to this album as I set these pages, I'm falling under its spell and would deem this a remarkable affair. Such a fantastic album! The Rough Trade label is almost a guarantee of something a little bit special, I'm sure this won't just become another number in the music stakes. You've got to experience this album for yourself. 9/10

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Magnet – The Tourniquet (Atlantic) 22/08/2005

I don’t think I’ve used the word “woozy” since I was about seven years old, but Magnet have given me the opportunity to do so now, because I feel it perfectly describes the kind of music Even Johansen makes.

Sit Rufus Wainwright down in a comfy armchair, pour high proof alcohol down his throat and then give him an almighty spliff and he’d probably come up with something like this. You get the picture.

Some tracks work better than others. The almost-but-not-quite-reggae tendency of “All You Ask” is a major highlight, as is the present single “Hold On” and the soulful, free spirited finale that is “Jaws”, but at times I feel the albums gets a little bogged down in wishy-washy land.

Nice enough for putting on in the background. Play it to a drunken old tramp though and he’ll feel twice as dizzy and probably end up spewing in your shoes. 6/10

Tone E

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Clayhill – Acoustic LP (Eat Sleep) 15/08/05

My first impressions here were “Tell Clayhill to throw their electric guitars onto the bonfire” and “They should stick to the acoustic clubs for the rest of their career” and to an extent I still feel the same way.

“Figure of Eight” and “Northern Soul” in particular sound WAAAY better in their naked incarnation than they do on their respective albums. Not that there was anything WRONG with the latter recordings, but they didn’t “speak” to me the way they do here in the musical nudist camp.

“Grasscutter” is another track that benefits greatly from the absence of its shackles, tugging gently at your heart strings and giving you a nice warm glow.

It’s not ALL wine and roses though – the band’s take on The Smiths’ classic “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” seems a little overblown to me. I always thought that the appeal of that song lay with its brevity – short, sharp and sweet – so to extend it to four minutes long without really adding anything of note seems rather futile. Also, “Face of the Sun” just seems to drift on aimlessly without ever going anywhere, to the point where it was a relief when it finished.

Clayhill’s “Acoustic” lp then, is like watching a garden full of beautiful peacocks being occasionally attacked by a couple of loose turkeys. 7/10

Tone E

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My Awesome Compilation – Actions (Sore Point / Bravestar) 08/08/05

Rarely do more than a couple of days go by before I end up banging this little gem back into my car stereo again.

The thing is, it’s such a positive, upbeat album, yet it still somehow manages to veer well away from the words “safe”, “emo”, “predictable”, and “twee”. That’s something we ought to be grateful for, and the tracks here are often explosive. See “Set To Go”, “Actions”, “Asking for Trouble” and current single “Put Up a Fight” for confirmation of this.

It’s wonderful too that these boys are not afraid to try something new with their sound. Indeed, the final track here, “Awake”, is more like The Wonder Stuff than anything else, and is something of a welcome diversion from the kickass tunes elsewhere on the album.

Present favourites are probably “Longshot”, with its anthemic “We’ll set the stage on fire tonight” chorus and the rather more messy but fun “Sirens” – although as you’ll see in this month’s featured interview, Das informs me that this song is about a car crash, so it looks as though I’ve been well and truly barking up the wrong tree there!

In short then, “Actions” is brimming with potential classics and remarkably infectious tunes. These lads, it would appear, can do no wrong. 9/10

Tone
E

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Diesel Park West - Shakespeare Alabama (Special Edition) (EMI) 08/08/2005

Re-released a week prior to this year's Summer Sundae festival in Leicester, an event Diesel Park West played at last year and in a city the band are in fact native to. This album first saw the light of day in February of 1989 and I can still remember the promotional slots the guys did around Leicester at least, during this time, as I can bumping into John Butler as I walked home one day.

The band are John Butler (vocs.), Geoff Beavan (bassist), Dave Anderson (drums) and guitarists Rick Willson and Rich Barton making this outfit one powerpacked quintet. Although the band signed to the fledgling Food records in the mid-1980's and released 2 further albums, Flipped and Decency, they failed to capitalise on the critical acclaim of this release and bridge the gap into the mainstream. Sitting on the edge of the phenomena that became Brit-pop and the new wave of New-Wave at around the time of this release, the band didn't really fit into any of these genres and although the much lauded 'When The Hoodoo Comes' did contain rings familiar to that of U2, this band where moving on and DPW were left playing in no-man's land, but why this single only reached #62 is anyone's guess, it still makes a powerful statement even today and 'Shakespeare Alabama' quite rightly "has become something of a cult classic".

In fact reaquainting myself with this album, as I have done with this re-release, I'm quite amazed at how fresh this album still sounds. Not at all stale and unlisenable as might've so easily been the case with an album that was 16 years old. This album still deserves its place in mine or any record collection and with the additional tracks this is just a bonus (although 2 of these were available with the original CD release). Hey though, I'm not complaining. 8/10

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The Rakes - Capture/Release (V2) 15/08/2005

T: These guys have just completed a tour of Japan and Europe with Bloc Party, and I can't help thinking that the album sounds like Billy Bragg fronting the Gang of Four at times.

N: I like the sounds of Punk revisited, and the clever wordplay that the vocalist utilises drawing scenes that are particularly ordinary and banging out hypnotising childlike choruses.

T: I tend to prefer the ones that seem to take influence from Ian Dury and the Blockheads' "New Boots and Panties" album. The rest of the tracks are pretty good but not perhaps as memorable as I'd have expected them to be.

N: Fair point. 6/10

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Cowboy Junkies – Early 21st Century Blues (Latent/Cooking Vinyl) 01/08/05

An album full of covers that all relate to war, violence, fear, greed, ignorance and loss. It’s an interesting concept and Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Bruce Springsteen amongst others are all given the junkie treatment.

There are also two original tracks here – “December Skies”, which is a bit too much of a plodder to make any kind of impact, and, on the other hand, we have the spine tingling beauty of “This World Dreams of” – but it tends to be the reworkings that make you sit up and take notice.

Perversely, a lot of these covers sound rather like a Woodstockian version of The Beautiful South, but the inclusion of the band’s brother John on acoustic guitar lends the album an altogether more “seventies love-in” kind of vibe.

I’ve never been a big fan of Springsteen, to be honest, but with these versions you’re forced to listen to the lyrical beauty that sprang from the man’s mind and it’s actually made me consider backtracking some of the man’s earlier catalogue to see if it’s better than I first thought.

Some fine workings lie within, although certain tracks work a lot better than others. “Handouts in the Sun” for example, just seems to go on and on and on and…and Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity” just doesn’t seem to work without the late, great genius putting his stamp on it, whereas John Lennon’s “I Don’t Want To Be a Soldier” is given a fascinating and breathtaking funk/rap makeover that marks the absolute pinnacle of the album.

Most of this record is well thought out, provocative and interesting, but there are just a few stumbling blocks. Well worth the effort anyway. 7/10

Tone E

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Luke Haines - Luke Haines Is Dead (EMI) 18/07/2005

On first glance, a fantastic collection of songs, spanning the periods singer/songwriter/all-round English Gentlemen Luke Haines has spent in the various guises of; The Auteurs, Baader Meinhof and as himself. So prolific is the guy that EMI have spread these regenerations over 3-CD's and called it a boxset, well what was once known as a double CD case at least, but this mamouth set of 62 tracks features not only A-sides and B-sides, but also lost-takes, BBC sessions, as well as those that have been previously unreleased.

I said on "first glance" when I opened this review, as the generation that's missing from here is that of Black Box Recorder. I can only imagine this may be due to the licensing of the material, or the fact Luke wasn't the lead vocalist, this resposibility being left to Sarah Nixey on this occasion (and I won't even begin to start with that of The Servants). None-the-less this really is a great concept, collecting those perhaps hard to find moments, as well as the long gone, but not forgotten one's, although spending 3 hours 20 minutes in the company of Luke Haines may be grounds for a health warning. 8/10

Nick James

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cKy - An Answer Can Be Found (Mercury) 04/07/2005

Philly rock outfit cKy release this their 4th album and one that was produced by vocalist/guitarist Chad Ginsburg. Describing their fans as the "antisociety", the group have built quite a reputation on the 'skate' scene, with their music refusing to adhere to any of the considered conformities. But by this, what exactly do they mean?

T: This is the kind of stuff I've never been able to get my head round, to be honest. Pomp stadium rock with lyrics that say pretty much nothing and it all sounds so damn SERIOUS.

N: Strains of melodic rock, more in keeping with a scene that was affluent 20 - maybe more - years previous. Not so much cock-rock but all the same, it IS very grand.

T: It just sounds a little dull to me, that's all. 4/10

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The Devil's Rejects OST (Hippo Records) US release: 28/06/2005

A double CD of tunes that featured on Rob Zombie's latest horror flick.

T: One of the most noticeable things about this soundtrack is the amount of "feelgood" music featured on a film that woud surely, if released in the early eighties, have qualified as a "video nasty". Admittedly this was a very tongue in cheek movie, and the selection of laid back country songs and upbeat tunes from Southwest America is clearly meant to contrast greatly with the graphic sex, violence and gore that is so heavily featured. So, in a way, I was quite impressed that we weren't forced to endure 2 hours of tuneless growling death metal - that really would have made the thing naff.

N: A dual CD/DVD that features the music previously described, interspersed with soundbites taken from the film. The video content is accessible on a DVD player and offers a trailer to the movie as well as a 20 minute "Making of" feature, essentially a taster for the film. 8/10

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