Album Reviews: November 2003

 

The Great Depression - Unconcious Pilot (Fire Records)

I was only thinking recently as lethargy set in, that "oh well, that's it, whoa, I've reached that age! - Music is someone else's scene", as releases from my past were re-released and fast held more appeal than anything fresh. But when music runs through your viens it's apparent that this is never going to happen and sure enough something re-awakened the sleeping beast inside of me, refueling that I thought I had lost.

A band with a name you may never have thought could possibily have produced this were that cause, Madison's 'The Great Depression' are what I have no hesitation or malice in describing the second generation of 'shoe-gazing', a post pop journey into sound. A group who have obviously studied their influences in great depth, melding those taken from groups such as 'Slowdive', 'Chapterhouse', 'Boo Radleys', even the molodious Ried Brothers 'J&MC', not to mention countless others, as well as cinematic moments from such darker tales of youth as Copelands' contribution to Coppola's 'Rumble Fish'.

I could and have I hasten to add, listened to this album back-to-back over and over and still I find something to keep my attention. Wonderful composition and lyrics that serve their purpose of getting the listener to dive inside their lines of awkward substance, "...throw the horses over into time...", did I get that right? It'll keep me ammused for hours. But on they go and the titles, such titles - 'Violent Goodbyes', 'The City By Ultralight', 'A Daring Tale Of Escape', all conjour up images in my mind, like the book, lines of description, absent of pictures to assist the lazy.


I hear what you're saying, I was tired of the lethargy in my inability to find something new and still I return, 10 years previously to a sound I once found so engaging only in a different skin. But in this case, although there maybe so much that's reminisent, they've gathered these moments to produce something new, something fresh and I have no doubt this will be an album I can return to in yet another 10 years or so and still find the same wonder that I realised on my first listen. As we approach the year end I can honestly say that I have found that I can truely call my 'album of the year'. 10/10 without hesitation.

Nick James

 
 

 

Black Grass - Black Grass (Catskills Records)

These Brighton based boys have come from nowwhere to produce a great album full of soulfull and funky music. From track one 'Grass Roots' the eloquence of their music is apparent. Deft touches of genius production are written all over this. The no.2 track 'Easy ' feat. Blak Twang is a great track with a quality colaboration, but it gets better! 'Score' is a funky instrumental track which make you want to bop and weave about. Then they flip it on you in 'Going Home' a mellow but heart felt story with quality breaks and bass and funky vocals.

A few beautifully formed tracks later and they drop 'Nice up' a reggae tinged party tune with horns and a happy bassline. The quality continues through 'Bang' feat. Supa TC Iz and 'The Finest Thing' Feat. Ra Khan.Worthy of special note is 'Self Assessment' feat. Maylay Sparks which is a superb hip hop track and 'Aint the Man' Feat. Mango Seed just a great lttle philosphical tune. Then to finish you off they drop 'Toys' which is just a lovely track to listen to with steady break beat, moving baseline and percussion that creates a genuinely interesting tune that evokes a lot of feeling. The kind of tune you would do some serious thinking to!

Good stuff! Go buy it it available now! 9/10

Nic Caesar

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The Creatures – Hai! (Sioux! Records)

You know that feeling you get when a band you used to really like return after a lengthy absence with something new? The feeling where one quarter of you thinks “Hey! A new <insert band name here> album! I can’t wait to put that on” and the rest of you screams “Oh no! Couldn’t you have just stopped making music and left us with the golden legacy you’ve already provided us? Oh shit I hope this isn’t garbage!”?

Well, that’s just happened.

I have inserted the disc with the kind of nervous anticipation normally reserved for a man approaching a pound full of Rottweilers having recently fallen headfirst into a bucket of Pedigree Chum.

Three tracks in (and after my visible relief at confirming that “Seven Tears” is an original composition and not a cover of the Goombay Dance Band’s 1982 atrocity) and it becomes clear that I had nothing to worry about. “Hai!” has a very Oriental resonance to it, unquestionably because the whole project was conceived by Siouxsie and Budgie just twenty four hours after they’d completed their Seven Year Itch tour in Japan, when they had embarked upon an impromptu session in a Tokyo recording studio.

I am delighted to report that the arcane euphony is still there in spades, especially when you delve deeper in – take the extremely dark sounding “Imagoro” or the fortifyingly gloomy “Tourniquet”, all the time filled with an Eastern mysticism that disarms you like a Samurai sword. A welcome return if ever I’ve heard one, and a remarkable record that suggest Mrs. Budgie is not quite ready to relinquish her crown just yet. 9/10

Tone E

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Jarcrew – Jarcrew (Gut Records)

Without doubt, this is one of the most baffling albums you will hear in some time!

You know that quote from the film “Private Parts” that runs something like “The average Howard Stern fan listens to his show for 30 minutes. The average Stern HATER listens for an hour and a half…just to see what he’s going to say next”? Well that’s kind of how it feels listening to Jarcrew. One minute you’re listening to a relatively melodic tune such as “Defacto Symphony” or “Paris & the New Math” (surely inspired by the Fall), and the next minute a totally fucked up “Boy Wonder” is hitting you full in the face at 100 miles per hour.

I think if you wound up Mark E Smith, Black Francis, Steven Tyler and Vanilla Ice (no, honestly!) to a really foul mood, and then shoved them into an empty room together, the end result would be something like this.

From the bizarre structuring of each track right down to the screwy artwork, Jarcrew have hit upon a style (?) of their own that defies any pigeonholing, and they’ll have you delightedly scratching your head as you listen, trying to figure out exactly WHICH drugs they’ve been taking! 8/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Late Night Tales - Jamiroquai (Azuli/Whoa)

Continuing the success of the previous members of this esteemed collection is the latest compilation, this time compiled by Jamiroquai. As expected this is a collection of sexy, funky, disco and funk tunes from yesteryear. Starting with the Pointer Sisters 'Happiness', the compilation takes you on a journey through the Commodores, Chaka Khan, Sister Sledge and Dexter Wansel without an obvious tune amongst them. There is a superb version of California Dreamin by the legendary Jose Feliciano and a classic with Lalo Schifrin's 'Theme from enter the Dragon'!! Finishing with Patrice Rushen ' Music of the Earth ' which is a superbly funky tune with mesmerising vocals that transport you back 20-30 years.

The album also includes the 3rd part of 'The White City' Written by Patrick Neale and narrated by the great Brian Blessed. 9/10

Nic Caesar

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Peter Gabriel - Hit (Real World/EMI)

Even if you were void of calenders, diaries, or had just woken from a coma and had the wise foresight of not venturing to the shops, I think you'd still be able to fairly accurately judge the time of year by state of the music industry - greatest hits compilations make mighty fine Christmas presents. Whoops - I made the dreadful mistake of describing this as a greatest hits, when in fact I should've refered to it as a "musical autobiography" of Gabriel's solo career. Whatever! Peter Gabriel is probably best known as the credible element to have been born out of 'Genesis', having released some mighty weird tunes and those that just became downright annoying along the way.

This glorious part to his career spans 25 years and 14 albums and while there have been collections of this nature released before, not in such an all encompassing form. 30 tracks over 2 CD's, take the route of not just re-visiting the best known of his songs, but also taking in more recent material, mixes and those previously unreleased. One such moment is that recorded with Karl Wallinger of 'World Party' and 'Burn You Down', now a current single.

Perhaps not the obvious choice for the casual listener, as 'Miss' the second of the discs offered here might be described as more an entire album of album tracks minus those that sold the record in the first place. But saying that I do not wish to debase is justification for being here, I found that the music offered was the perfect compliment to the heady mix of hits and those previously described to be found on the first disc of this set. As said, could be briefer for the casual listener, but what would be the point of that? This is the perfect compendium for the music buyer wishing to discover Mr Gabriel's talents. 8/10

Nick James

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Space Cowboy - Across the sky (SouthernFried)

Billed as Norman Cook's protege there has been a lot of expectation regarding Space Cowboy and generally he has lived up to it. A lot of the material is very radio freindly mainstream dance/pop the sort of thing that the ladies might like more than the men! Tracks worthy of mention are 'All bout Money' a funky soul tune with a sexy vibe, 'Crazy Talk' a funky house tune with similar vocals and a great strings hook which will be wedged in your mind. Also 'Prove me Wrong' and 'So you like what you see' which both have a bhangra influenced sound.

You also have ' I dont care' and 'Always and Forever' which have a very french house feel to them, almost sounding a bit Daft Punk -esque. So altohgether a varied album with a lot to offer. The more hardned dance fans will think its a bit too 'bubble gum' house for them but generally its good party music with a popular sound that will get the ladies going - at the least. 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Dave Clarke - Devils Advocate (Skint)

Now here is some tough dance music!! Techno and tech house with a touch of electro thrown in but with a really unique sound. The first indication of the depth of this album is summed up in a phrase from 'Way of Life', the intro track, ' I believe in the rythmn, its the sound that makes me move, I can feel it....do you believe in the house, house music'!!

Colaborations by DJ Rush and Chicks on Speed demonstrate the variety that Dave Clarke has tried to input. You have some seriously funky tunes in here with 'The Wiggle' and 'Blue on Blue' back to back. Again the texture is here with a funky tech house tune followed by a class act hip hop track feat. Mr Lif. Superb quality production!

There are some very dark tracks also such as 'Stay out of the light' and ' Dirtbox' but this flows well with the energy of the album. A very interesting collection of hard and tough tracks, some with a funky edge, some with a darker, more sinister feel. Worthy of a listen who ever your are! 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Sikth – The Trees Are Dead and Dried Out Wait For Something New
(Go! Records)

I have no idea why I like this so much. After all, half of it sounds like a weary tramp vomiting profusely amid a pool of human faeces. The other half is like all the backward kids you used to know at school competing in a strangling contest.
Perhaps it’s the urgency of the melodies (melodies? Yeah RIGHT!) that has made such an impact on me, after all there’s no shortage of stimulus. Or maybe it’s the sense of provocation that appeals so much, a bit like that old Punk ethic of “Fuck the rules, we’re gonna do this OUR way, and hey, if we WANT to include beautifully tormenting piano pieces between great chunks of tuneless death metal, then we damn well WILL!”.

I wish bands like Sikth could get the same media coverage and overhype as those hideous Pop Idol wannabes; it would give me great pleasure to see the petrified look on small children’s faces as this band belted out another devil worshipping anthem from the number one spot on their Top of the Pops podium. Well, ok then, they’re not actually Satanists, but how’s a spotty oik from Chesterfield to know the difference? Not that I’m anti-children you understand, but let’s face it, one third of the reality pop bollocks that contaminates our charts is because of them. The other two thirds are made up by middle aged to elderly women and immensely stupid people. We need to use these scare tactics to frighten these people out of our record stores and Sikth are just the band to do it! 8/10

Tone E

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Small Victories - Holding On Hopefully (Boobytrap Records)

I realise that in the past we've perhaps been less than complimentary about this band and maybe, ok they do sound an awful lot like a number of groups that inhabit the post-brit pop indie scene, but as an album this does go together quite nicely. There are highs and lows apparent here, but I have to be honest and found the former to take presidence. Any apparthy that listeners may feel this album posesses, I think could be born out of the fact that this is not exactly the freshest of sounds, but the over-riding xxx to this album is that this is a very chilled-out listen. No fire-works, no red carpet, just an honest presentation of guitar led indie-pop. Now finally I'm here to eat our words in stating that the recently released (and reviewed) single 'Go Back To Bed America' did in fact posess those fire-works I thought before now where somewhat lacking, so sorry guy's, an altogether respectable indie album, artwork could be more inspiring though. 7/10

Nick James

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Late Night Tales - Jamiroquai (Azuli/Whoa)

In the October reviews on this site, I mentioned that in my humble opinion, there are very few compilation albums that deserve much credit. The Late Night Tales series is an exception to that rule, focusing as it does on ‘digging in the crates of some of our favourite performers and producers’. It’s a fascinating insight into the heart and soul of our best known celebrities and what makes them tick.

This particular volume doesn’t throw up too many surprises – few of you would raise your eyebrows at the inclusion of the likes of The Commodores, Sister Sledge, Marvin Gaye, The Real Thing or the Pointer Sisters, but there is the odd unexpected offering here – for instance Jose Feliciano’s version of the contemporary classic “California Dreaming” and it’s those moments that absorb the listener to the greatest effect. This is most definitely post midnight music, combining blithe lethargy with a buoyant funk that fills you with a vibrant energy and just makes you want to dance.

Having said all that, this kind of stuff has never really cut the mustard with me in the past, but Jay Kay has selected tunes from the top of the pile in their respective genres here, and as a result the Late Night Tales team have come up with another winner. 7/10

Tone E

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Paul Van Dyke - Reflections (Positiva)

Typical Van Dyke material that is well produced and sounds great. But its not really my cup of tea. The musical style is too european dance sounding with an edge of tranceness, even the none dance tracks dont do it for me. 'Knowledge' begins with a promising break beat but then decends into a horrible sonic mess. This is an example of why I, maybe, am not the best person to review this. Of the dance genre this sort of stuff just doesnt float my boat.

Having said that I cant deny the quality of the song writing and the production. Crisp, sharp production allows the atmosphere of the songwriting to come through. He is a very talented dance artist and this is a fact supported by the regular 10,000 audience gigs he performs. I also have a fair amount of respect for the way he promotes himself. The music tends to do most of the talking and that is something I would try to emulate if I had his talent!

6/10

Nic Caesar


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