Album Reviews: October 2005


DVD – The Right Spectacle – The Very Best of Elvis Costello – The Videos (Rhino)

What is there to say about Elvis Costello that hasn’t been said already? He is quite rightly acclaimed – by those in the know at least – as one of the greatest artists and songwriters of our generation, and here is a comprehensive look back at the classic videos to these tunes that made us laugh, smile and maybe even cry.

A notable omission from the selected videos here is “Watching the Detective”, Elvis’s first chart single. Whether this was due to the release being on Stiff Records I’m unsure, but Rhino have got around this problem by including not one, but TWO live versions in the Special Features, where you will find many other marvellous performances on various TV spots, live renditions of other tracks that never made it, and festival stealing offerings of some of the great man’s best loved work. It’s nothing short of an astonishing DVD, wonderfully packaged and beautifully presented. Rhino deserve a heck of a lot of credit for putting such a remarkable Aladdin’s Cave of delights together.

Just the videos alone would have made compulsive viewing. Let’s face it, when you have the likes of classic tunes such as “Pump It Up”, “Accidents Will Happen”, “Everyday I Write the Book” and of course “Oliver’s Army” entertaining you visually as well as aurally, it’s as near perfect as you can get already, but the fact that Elvis offers an optional commentary on each of these promotional films is something of a revelation.

You can get through the entire DVD, featuring some 27 videos, without getting tired of Costello’s engaging musings, because he manages to be so amusing, interesting, insightful and frequently hilariously self deprecating (“I think we got these clothes as a cast-off from Doctor Who”, or “Oh my God, who’s this guy?” set the standard of what’s to come right from the off, from whereon he accuses various band members of having been “on the vodka” when the videos were made, or affectionately mocks the video makers in their “no expense spared” attitude to making the damn things!).

If anyone has ever put out a better, more compulsive or smarter value for money “Greatest Hits” compilation, I’ve yet to see it. Quite simply it is magnificent and any true fans of the bespectacled legend (can you tell I’M a big fan?!) will have a big gaping hole in their collection until they’ve bought it. This is absolutely and uquestionably superb. 10/10

Tone E

Editor: He's right you know. This is not only a value packed collection of this prolific singer/songwriter's solo work, it's also a comprehensive look at the man's history (with the notable omision of the W.T.D. video). It goes some way to tidy up all those loose ends and provides an ethralling afternoon's viewing, on this DVD quite rightly described as an "Aladdin's Cave of delights". But don't just take our word for it, venture to the links below to experience some of the man's videos and remind yourself just how good he was and still is, afterall a performer who can dance like Elvis deserves our undivided attention.

Sample the wares, click on the following to stream Quicktime videos - (get Quicktime here - for mac and pc);

Veronica / High Fidelity / Radio Radio

U.S. product page: click here

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Various - Thumbsucker O.S.T. (EMI) 24/10/2005

This is the soundtrack from directorial debut of Mike Mills film 'Thumbsucker' that was adapted from the novel by Walter Kirn. As the press reads; "Justin Cobb (played by newcomer Lou Pucci) still sucks his thumb at 17. He wants to stop and knows that his thumbsucking is disrupting his family, his love life and his identity. The only thing that changes his behaviour is hypnosis therapy administered by his "guru" orthodontist. But while Justin felt this would solve all his problems and he would finally be "normal", his troubles were really just beginning".

So basically this sounds like one of those American real-life dramas we are so used from having access to from American TV, but the soundtrack itself is quite a value packed one, which in essence is an album that lets audiences hear the work of two great artists - Tim DeLaughter and his Polyphonic Spree and the singer/songwriter Elliot Smith.

This score is in places quite obviously the score to a movie, you get the feeling the songs used aid the storytelling, but otherwise as an album does work very well. DeLaughter has put together music that fits very well, with the obvious exception of the track "The Call Of The Wild", one that breaks the hypnotic spell the album has created and wakes the listener in quite a nightmare-ish fashion, but I guess the film would explain its inclusion.

Altogether I found this album a very pleasant listening experience, but this coming from a fan of The Polyphonic Spree's work. If you to are familiar with DeLaughter and co. then I think this as an album will seat very nicely in your collection, Eliot Smith features far less frequently, 3 songs in fact, but does include one Smith chose himself for inclusion here, that of "Thirteen", a beautifully crafted acoustic song where his vocals flow so untainted and was previously unreleased.

I've not seen the film, but feel as a score is a well compiled and one that has wetted my appetite for the movie and going on general release on the 28th of October, I won't have long to wait. Oh and should I mention Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn star alongside the fledgling Pucci? 8/10

Nick James

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Life of Agony – Broken Valley (Hassle) 17/10/2005

If any of these other young pretenders needed a lesson in how to “rock”, they need look no further than Life of Agony, who ceremoniously whip their asses with some scorching guitar work, perfectly emotive vocals and damn fine tunes.

“Love To Let You Down” is a pulsating bullet of an opener, while the marvellous “Last Cigarette” is like ELO’s harder, hipper older brother.

The difference between Life of Agony and the vapid squalor of Sevendust is that the former band hasn’t overlooked the importance of actually at least having SOME semblance of a tune.

Occasionally sounding like a less laid back Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band deliver a lively, impassioned bunch of songs that, whilst they don’t ALL hit the right note for me personally, are obviously lovingly crafted and a lot of time and thought has gone into the production.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a band make this brand of rock music sound enjoyable but Life of Agony, ironically, do it perfectly. 8/10

Tone E

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Chris Smither - Honeysuckle Dog (Forever Heavenly) 10/10/2005

Described as "a georgeous lost treasure" this album has been re-issued courtesy of Heavenly's Jeff Barrett and was originally first available in 1973. For an album that is almost as old as I, this one works quite nicely 32 years later. Rich in country soul and featuring some great guitar playing, this album reminds of the music people might recognise from films that starred Burt Reynolds, all denim shirts and cowboy boots, but the guitar playing is the element that will immediately attract listeners attention, with great slide used to bolster Smither's hobo vocals, I just love the lyric; " my pockets full of spare-time...", heard on "It Ain't Easy".

His third longplayer, this proceeded releases from 1970 ("I'm A Stranger Too) and 1971 ("Don't Drag It On"). The artist is still active touring to this day. So if you're feeling curious and maybe a fan of the likes of Tim Buckley, Gene Clark and Tim Hardin, then this unearthed gem may just be your ticket to a wider musical appreciation and you might just find the roots for some of today's sampling. 7/10

Nick James

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Sevendust – Next (Winedark) 10/10/2005

You know how sometimes you’re in a queue – maybe at the post office or the bank – and the person at the front is kicking up a bit of a fuss? They’ll make sure everyone behind them is aware of their predicament and will even glance at various folk in the line in the hope of some acknowledgement that they’re right, when in actual fact all us patient faced folk are thinking is “You’re making a total embarrassment of yourself and you’re holding me up. Now please fuck off”.

Well, that’s the kind of guys I reckon Sevendust are, judging by their music. They sound like Linkin Park with their panties up in a bunch most of the time, the rest of the album sounding more like Evanescence or, worse, Nickelback. The fact that you can easily picture Phil Collins singing some of the slower tunes too does little to dispel the sour taste in your mouth!

Lyrics that could have been written by a nine year old tough who peddles drugs (“You pathetic disgrace” and “You piece of shit” are particularly memorable lines) and melodies straight out of the Screamo Beginner’s Handbook – not the most appealing combination I’m sure you’ll agree. Still, there ARE tiny glimmers of hope in the shape of the last three tracks – “Desertion”, “Never” and “Shadows In Red” but I can’t for the life of me explain why I found those ones any better than the others so I won’t even try. Maybe it’s because it was near the end of the album. 3/10

Tone E

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John Cale - blackAcetate (EMI) 03/10/2005

Ask anyone to tell you who Lou Reed is and in most cases, maybe with a little prompting thanks to the BBC's use of Perfect Day for their advertising campaign, they will be able to recall exactly who it is you are talking about and yet mention John Cale and with the exception of a few well healed individual's the same may not be said. Even though both individuals played a part in one of music's seminal bands in the 1960's, The Velvet Underground, both are poles apart if we're talking recognition stakes. Yet Cale who appeared on the first two V.U. albums (probably the most recognised; V.U. and Nico and White Light, White Heat), was born and raised in South Wales, leaving the group in 1968 for what is said in part down to creative disagreements with Reed.

Well now here we are in 2005 after Mr Cale went onto carve a very credible career for himself (as did the other members of the former group), with in his case collaborations with artists such as rock musicians Super Furry Animals, Squeeze and Patti Smith to name just a few, as well as classical artists such as Terry Riley. His contribution as a producer and one who has seen his work transcend to the big screen is legendary and now the follow-up to 2003's critically acclaimed Hobosapiens is shed light on as blackAcetate is offered for public hearing, an album that features such class quotes as "I write reams of this shit everyday..." (on the albums 3rd track Brotherman) is so refreshing it makes experiencing this album an exhilarating one and not that where we're just hearing a self fulfilled force going through the motions.

I could quote such influences I hear in the music as Robert Fripp, The Stooges, Bowie and The Scissor Sisters, but this would be futile as which way round the influence goes, to me, would be uncertain. He's made an album that keeps you on your toes and twists and turns in both style, pace and soundscape, sometimes giving the appearance of a musician on the edge, whilst at others one who is totally at home with himself. The first release from this album was TurnTheLightsOn, a digital download only, is a fully charged cannon, with rock guitars swirling around your head as they scream through the verses, the second 'Perfect' will see its full commercial release, is perhaps disappointingly very similar in its musical makeup, yet all said with a greater lyrical hook. Brotherman is a fantastic musical journey, with squelched electronic accompaniment and a lyric that'll perhaps not go down to well on daytime radio-play. The track that precedes this (For A Ride) is well worth a listen and in my mind bears hallmarks of a Sylvian/Fripp similarity from 1993's The First Day.

It would be difficult to say exactly what my favorite track on this album would be, as I suspect this will change on each subsequent hearing. Let me just settle this argument with myself by agreeing that blackAccetate is one hell of an album and one that should be featured in quoted best albums somewhere, wherever. This is a must and one that may leave you questioning other more recent releases. Genius, there's no other word for it. 10/10

Nick James

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Simple Plan – MTV Hard Rock Live (Lava/Atlantic) 03/10/2005

What is it with this sudden spate of live albums? Honestly, I haven’t seen such an abundance of them since the early eighties. It’s a drag for me especially because, as you know, I rarely like the damn things!

Well, Simple Plan are far from our favourite band here at Atomicduster, but to give them their fair dues they certainly prove they can play their instruments admirably and entertain their fans to a reasonable degree. It’s full of clichés, there’s no doubt about that, but if you’re about fifteen and into this kind of stuff, I imagine you’d come away from their gigs with a big smile on your face.

There’s not really much else to say about it. It’s not exactly my thing, but you can’t fault their enthusiasm or their obvious respect for their fans. Oh look – there’s a fence for me to sit on. 5/10

Tone E

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RSL - Every Preston Guild (Players) 03/10/2005

Wow this is a fresh collection of sounds the likes of which I havent heard for a while. The album has true musicality with a vibrant dance edge and soulful undertone. Track one is just a lush introduction to a stunning album. The album is full of latin flavours, blended with jazzy flashes and classical constructions. Its sounds like the best live show you've ever seen. It really does conjur images of grand stage productions, curtains drawing back, crowds hushing in anticipation, and then it hits you!

Smack square in the face and you know what , you never saw it coming!

The first track is the kind of track an eclectic DJ like me would love to have as an opener at some summer function, outdoors, as the light begins to fade. Magical and classic! The album continues its latin theme into 'The Mast' with soft vocals and samba beats. Again it builds into a dramatic, climactic, epic sounding toe tapper! So thats two home runs in a row then.

And so to 'Star', marracas a flailling! Two minutes of build and then they drop a breaky backbeat and funky bassline with scratches and flashes all over the shop! A real street feel from a soft and gentle build up. Very rare!

The rest of the album is a gentle rumaging through latinesque sounds sprinkled with contemporary sounds and beats but always dramatic in its presentation.The final track 'The Magic of Spain' is a classic spanish melody laced with a funky breaks and drops and cuts all over the shop. Nice!

Altogether a unique album from a band of guys from round abouts lancashire!!! mmmm interesting! But definately one of the more exciting and inventive listening experiences I have had for a while. 9/10

Nic Caesar



Various Artists – Dream Brother – The Songs of Tim & Jeff Buckley (Full Time Hobby) 03/10/2005

Both Tim and Jeff Buckley, as you’re probably already aware, were taken away from us at a criminally early age – Tim at age 28 from a heroin and alcohol overdose in 1975 and his son at 30 due to an accidental drowning eight years ago.

It’s perhaps surprising then, that it’s taken this long before we saw any form of tribute album to the now legendary pair – maybe it’s because they wanted to make doubly sure it was a fitting one that would see them both smiling down on the artists who were involved.

Established acts such as The Magic Numbers and Stephen Fretwell deliver heartfelt, and frequently astonishingly different, versions of these already beautiful songs. This is mixed with several reworkings by up and coming artists, the pick of the bunch probably being Matthew Herbert’s melted down and remoulded version of “Everybody Here Wants You” or The Earlies’ astonishing transformation of “I Must Have Been Blind” into some kind of late night torch song.

All in all this is a wonderful collection of tracks by artists that were, and are, unmistakably big fans of these two great men. 9/10

Tone E

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Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino) 03/10/2005

So messer's Franz Ferdinand, or Kapranos and co. if you're being particular offer to the sacrificial table what is their second long player in what must be 19 months, well damn near to the day that is. This album although may not fit into that difficult second album category, as none of that seems apparent here, instead strikes up as if almost a band trying to find themselves, like the first meteoric strike that was their eponymous debut was some kind of shock.

Although this is not horrible to listen to, I did fid it somewhat awkward at times, not the happy 'indie kid' pop album that I might've expected. Phrases borrowed and morphed into something not quite that spectacular. There are the obvious singles that come literally screaming from the album, their first Do You Want To is a case in point, and maybe You're The Reason I'm Leaving could prove another, but when I say "...come screaming" is perhaps because unlike their debut this album just doesn't appear to carry the same weight as their earlier affair. Maybe it'll grow on me, maybe there is a clever second album under these earlier listens, but for now I'm sorry, but could've done better. 6/10

Nick James

(This time the limited edition comes in the form of a bonus DVD, so get it where you can).

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Blondie – Live By Request (Cooking Vinyl) 03/10/2005

As you’d expect from a well respected, experienced band like Blondie, this is an extremely professional, expertly delivered live set of some of their best known songs. Thankfully though, it’s not just another group churning out nothing but their greatest hits back catalogue, with the notable omission of “Atomic”, “Denis” and “Sunday Girl” and the inclusion instead of recent and less well remembered tunes such as “Good Boys”, “Accidents Never Happen” (tell that to Elvis Costello) and “X Offender”.

Still, Ms. Harry’s voice, whilst still extremely powerful and capable of entrancing its audience, does not exude the intense, intimidating sexuality that it once did, and that does tend to take something away from the overall effect. Then again, she IS in her sixties now I guess, so perhaps it’s unlikely that this element WOULD remain present.

What the album HAS proved to me though is that Blondie are evidently still well worth catching on their upcoming tour. 7/10

Tone E

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Mark Eitzel – Candy Ass (Cooking Vinyl) 03/10/2005

My missus would hate this. There’s no doubt about that, as the American Music Club frontman often drifts into Nick Drake territory and she always berates the late legend for being overly depressive (I know. Don’t ask).

The thing with Eitzel’s music though is that it’s anything BUT dark. Take a proper listen to what he’s singing and it’s really quite amusing even at times, a lot of humour being particularly evident on the album’s opener “My Pet Rat St. Michael”.

Next there is the tranquil chillout of instrumental “Cotton Candy Tenth Power” and the dreamlike quality of “Make Sure They Hear” and “Sleeping Beauty”.

I was about to mention how a lot of Eitzel’s music sounded like it would befit a film soundtrack by one of the world’s more innovative directors when I noticed that he HAS in fact been commissioned to do just that with the non-vocal tracks included here, although the title of said movie is yet to be announced. There is no doubt in my mind though that it would be perfect for anything along the lines of “Man With a Movie Camera” and indeed, it is the more electronically influenced compositions that hold the most appeal on “Candy Ass”.

Innovative, sardonic, demented and insouciant (ok you can put the thesaurus down now), this is an infinitely listenable album and I look forward to hearing more. 8/10

Tone E

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The Young Gods - Xxy (1985-2005) (Pias) 03/10/2005

It is suggested that this band lived in the future, possibly one of a space age landscape where we all travel to work on cyber bykes, or something similar, well The Young Gods certainly live somewhere not of this world, a sub world possibly, where rat boy brings his contribution to the table in the form of... (alright, perhaps better not go there). Now that I have created this vision of another world, I shall try to explain where it is The Young Gods actually dwell, that being formed in Switzerland, it is most likely that having defiled Hedi, ripping her from the arms of Peter, they then went on to teach her the ways of sampled music in a manner that was before untold.

Well in the 20 years that transpired since their inception, The Young Gods may not have actually broken Hedi, but have certainly broken their technologies making music that treads a fine line between melody and noise. Described as 'industrial' this band may be the seed that saw the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Ministy develop their sound, and whilst at times utilising Guitars to effect that raw, itching patch of skin, also pour acid onto the wound in the form of fractured electronic interference, resulting in a nasty rash at least. The group utilise their skill at sampling and as well as being an inspiration evidently borrow from various sources, from familiar musical patterns, such as those on Fais La Mouette, phases that appear possible to Khan's Japan, a national anthem and Max Headroom.

The same may be said throughout the album, with different influences coming to the fore and whilst it could be derived that these guy's use their music as a boxer might use a punch bag, there are times when a more subtle tone is used. September Song for example takes proceedings down somewhat using 20th Century German composer Kurt Weill's recognised piece, although morphed will certainly appear familiar, if not making its composer restless as he sleeps in his grave.

Alright this album may span 20 years and provide the listener with 20 tracks with which to fill their time, but I would have to say that however influential these guy's may have been, this is quite a purgatory to put the listener through. In short bursts I feel it may work, but as an evenings listening, perhaps a little torturous. 7/10

Nick James

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Beta Band - Music (The Best Of...) (Parlophone) 03/10/2005

Possibly The Beta Band's farewell shot at the world, as having called it a day in the summer of last year, this is the inevitable 'Greatest Hits' gambit that was sure to follow. In a packed program this double feature includes not only all the hits, but also a night recorded at The Shepherds Bush Empire on November 29th 2004 from that farewell tour that followed their earlier announcement.

As you might expect from the group, this collection is a set of chilled out Beta vibes played in their own inimitable style, one that although critically acclaimed, with admirers of the group ranging from Beck, Oasis to Radiohead, failed to bring the band little in return in terms of commercial success. Well expect this album to be around for sometime, as considering their place on the musical stage, I expect this product to be one of those must have catch up affairs, possibly acting as an introduction to the music that band members have gone onto create, Steve Mason's King Biscuit Time being a point in hand.

This collection has been compiled with a dexterity that is nothing less than supreme, that as listened to this collection I found myself no longer aware that I was in the midst a compilation, moreover a finely crafted album. As one track followed the other, little signs of the stitches were present that should've been there to hold it together. A great album, from a great band that will surely see their name carved into the passing's of time. 8/10

Nick James

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The Bloodhound Gang - Hefty Fine (Geffen) 26/09/2005

From those less than savoury musical connoisseur's; The Bloodhound Gang release 'Hefty Fine', their first longplayer in 5 years and fully deserves its '"Parental Advisory" sticker on the front. The album features the recently reviewed 'Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo' - you do the math! And isn't the most musically original release, but that's not what their aiming for I'd guess.

Hard and heavy guitars go to play with programmed beats and chords, with the all too obtrusive lyrics laid over the top. I have to say the first time I heard this band was on '97's "One Fierce Beer Coaster" and ok so I was a tender 27 at the time and their humour seemed fresh and suited me at that time, but now although its initial impact was an alarm call, as I work through the album it appears to have lost some of its sheen. 3/10

Nick James

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Ian Brown - The Greatest (Fiction Records) 29/09/2005

A collection that documents Ian's solo career from the release of his first single "My Star", and takes in the hits from his four studio albums. This should act as a reminder of just what a heavy-weight this artist is. From the opening tune here - "My Star", through "Dolphins Were Monkeys" and "F.E.A.R.", to the recent single "All Ablaze", this collection of tunes is a winner and should not be treated as a full stop, with I am certain a "Greatest Hits - Volume 2" off somewhere in the future.

So essentially rounding off Ian Brown's solo career to date, this album should surely help those who've not already (like yeah...!) discovered an artist who is an essential part of British music history and for those fans, to tidy up their shelves and replace those lost favourites. Great album, great songs, nuff said really. 9/10

Nick James

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Fingathing - Time Capsule (GrandCentralRecords) 19/09/2005

If you havent heard of these chaps before, you have probably heard them before as they used to be part of the Rae and Christian outfit. Its basically a couple of guys, ones a bad ass scratch Dj, the other a musician with an electric double bass. But together they are Fingathing. The music is broad ranging with hip hop influences through to classical. The trick is these guys give it a touch that feels more like reflex than maticulous planning. This just makes for an album of tracks that are dynamic and surprising.

Head to head is the first track and appeared on the bands first EP. Great scratching and samples from the great Roxanne Shante to name but one! (Break out your old Electro series for a refresh of her MC skills) A real fat, beat stompin dancefloor classic for sure!

And you guessed it, it goes on like this! 'Wasting time' is a more together sounding track that ebbs and flows with lots of melodic phrases and repetitive harmonies. A real favourite of mine is 'Superheroes Music'. Really dramatic hip hop style samples all over it and massive orchestral flanges and bursts all whipped together with some superb dj skills!

This leads you through very nicely but there are some quirky tracks here worth a listen, the final track of the album being a massive floor pumping head banger. I really want you to discover this one for yourself, especially if you think you know a lot about music and havent heard these guys before. I think it will change something in your perseption of what is possible musically and dance wise. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Erin McKeown - We Become Birds(EMI) 12/09/2005

This album from Virgina-born, Massachusetts-living Erin McKeown is something of a refreshing change from the light and folksey music heard in today's chart. I found in this album a certain sense of a younger Joan Armatrading, music that is not ashamed of itself, music that just goes out and tells a story. Then again I also heard the riding bassline of Adam Clayton and the guitar so familair perhaps to his college, The Edge, the music here is so forthright it's not going to be ignored.

Her third album and first since 2003's 'Grand', was one that our Tone in describing her Sunday's style undertones as "a joy to behold" and certainly although the vocals maybe less girly than Harriet Wheeler from the afore mentioned band, Erin's general musical refrain is one that may be described as in keeping with the earlier mentioned group. Now 27, having mastered music, its instruments and with song writing a definite strength, Erin has produced an album that is befitting her vast musical skill. "We Are More" for example contains music that listeners may be more familiar with coming from the likes of Paul Simon, with uplifting vocals
that rise to the occasion. Worth checking out. 9/10

Nick James

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