Album Reviews: December 2002


A - Hi-Fi Serious (now with DVD - Serious) (London)

Finally making their mark on the UK top 40 in 2002, having had six minor hits in the lower reaches at the end of last millennium, "A" have seen fit to re-release their acclaimed "Hi-Fi Serious" album, this time with an additional DVD for fans of the aplhabetically challenged band. Plus of course, we get the chance to review it this time around.

N: I can see fans of the group rushing out, dipping their hands in their pockets and once again purchasing this fantastic album, not because the label have remastered copies, a pretty usless task considering many fans only have the most buget of hi-fi's, but instead something far more worthwhile in this climate of accesible DVD-ness. I'd far rather buy the album again considering it came with the DVD presentation, than shell out for this disc on its own. Your judgement of proceedings Mr E?

T: It's facinating having the subtitles available on screen as you are watching the live performance. It has made me realise however that A's lyrics may leave little to be desired. Having said that the passion and feeling put into each track shows that sometimes simple really is the best way.

N: But the content included on this presentation is really worthwhile for any fan of the group. 'Live', 'Home Movies' and a 'Photo Gallery' all vie for attention, featuring within the earlier option not just foo rage from awards ceremonies, but also backstage with the band and an around the World look wilst on tour with the group.

T: All in all a neatly packaged, visual treat to compliment a great album. 7/10

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Amorphous Androgynous - Mello Hippo LP (Artful Records)

Following the success of the recent "The Isness" LP, Future Sound Of London present an eight track mini album under the guise of Amorphous Androgynous, in attempt to whisk us away into a magical world where we are all at peace with ourselves, grow organic vegetables and wear trousers that we crafted from our own ear wax. But does it work for us?

N: The music makes its appearance here very much in the vain of DJ Shadow, but cue lyrics and this steps into a space inside our heads with a liquid translucence of trips and stoned pastimes.

T: Floydian Trips in fact, rather than Freudian Slips. It's no surprise to learn that Dave Gilmour and co have influenced Amorphous Androgynous in quite dramatic quantities. It works for me in a big way though, I feel like I've been caressed and cleansed by an angel after having listened to this album.

N: Careful not to excuse the disc in your car's multi-changer though. I don't quite know how this would stand up in court as a reason for your having been given a celestial BJ (come on guys, we can at least dream a little)!

T: And that in fact is a very good description of what you will witness here - a dreamy, chilled out evening culminating in something improbable. 9/10

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John Peel - Fabriclive 07 (Fabric Records ltd)

Radio One's finest releases his very own brand of club DJing - yes you heard right! - on this mixture of classic oldies and little known hidden gems. According to Peel himself - "These are some of my favourite songs. There's a real risk I'll listen to nothing else ever again". So what did we think?

T: I would have loved to see the faces on the Mitsubishi munching gurners on the dancefloor at this event...

N: An eclectic mix of artists, moods and textures offered up by a true master of the DJ forum, showing that even though pension book looms close, age is not all cardigans and carpet slippers.

T: Everybody's favourite grandad has come up trumps here with some superb rarities the like of which will sadly never be heard on terrestrial radio. I'm quite happy to don the proverbial pipe and slippers you referred to however. Don't you know that cardigans and Old Holborn are back in?

N: Last month, we had the bite of Roots Manuva offering for inspection samples from his record collection. This time around, the man synonymous as much with the dope smoking generation as the late evening radio you can sometimes miss as match, comes as my colleague notes a record selection to blow your mind. And yes, The Fall are featured! 7/10

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David Holmes presents The Free Association (Amp Recordings)

One of the most well respected artists in his genre, DJ/producer/soundtrack composer David Holmes' inspiration for this album was the feasibility of taking his music live. The act has evolved into a core four-piece with a wealth of talented players all around them. Apparently this is the record that David Holmes "has always been threatening to make". So, if it's a threat, do we agree to do all his homework for him, or ask him if he wants to make something of it outside after Maths?

N: When this guy tells us "This Film's Crap, Let's Slash The Seats", I ain't going to see the king of the disco in "Battlefield Earth". Hell, if his next album tells us to polish his shoes, then that's fine by me. David Holmes is an awesome artist. I did feel a little let down by "Bow Down To the Exit Sign", but as we are reintroduced to the Free Association, the inevitable becomes clear.

T: We do indeed seem to be blessed with some outstanding product this month and Holmes' latest release is no exception. It's suitably leftfield to raise the eyebrows of any discerning music critic and packs a powerful punch throughout the album. Fresh, occasionally sinister and invigorating, the master shows his might once again.

N: The album he's always been threatening to make? Well as he does, it is clear that this is THE album that the world has been waiting for. 9/10

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Badly Drawn Boy - Have You Fed The Fish? (XL Recordings)

One of a handful of albums that we are reviewing slightly late in this issue due to unforeseen circumstances, Badly Drawn Boy's profile has risen dramatically in the last 18 months with various music awards, film scores and Hollywood legends taking a dip in his bathtub. You'd think another successful album would make him flush enough to buy a new hat really, wouldn't you?

N: Another bad hair day, Damon? What's the cop? Breaking in with the track "Coming In To Land", a homage to BDB making a suitable introduction to Gough's latest, it begs the question "Is this album a tribute to Sgt.Pepper?"

T: Well I can think of worse things he could have based it on, and anyway the cat seems to like it. "Heh heh, he's thinking. I've eaten the little blighters, let alone fed them".

N: The first single to be lifted here, "You Were Right", I continually confuse with the dulcet tones of Glenn Tilbrook and assume that this just lends to the fact that here we have one of tomorrow's songwriting masters. 8/10

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Robbie Williams - Escapology (Chrysalis Records ltd)

You've got to hand it to Bob, he is, whether you love him or hate him, an all round entertainer. Apparently the cheeky oddball recorded the vast majority of this album in the nude, and I can't help thinking that this seeming inability to keep his clothes on is really his biggest downfall. I daresay that there are hoardes of screaming teenage girls who would beg to differ on that one, but let's concentrate on stripping the music down to its pants on this occasion...

N: Gives a whole new image to the statement "Swing Low", but he's not the first and won't be the last. Given air to breathe, it obviously assists the artist. is it me or is Robbie getting far less "pop" and walking his own street?

T: I don't know about walking his own street, but I'd say he's certainly taken some interesting shortcuts to get back to his house, picking up hints and vibes from the neighbours on the way. There's Mr.Albarn at number 35 ("Song 3", "How Peculiar"), Mr.Dylan at number 12 ("How Peculiar" again), Mr.Morrissey at number 57 ("Handsome Man") and the unfortunate four piece at the end of the road whose house Williams seems to have ransacked and stolen various song lyrics from ("Me and My Monkey" and "Revolution" in particular).

N: What it is that I'm always astounded with when it comes to any new Robbie Williams material is just how much it knocks me for six and this time is no exception. Are these autobiographical lyrics? Whatever, Mr.Entertainer as Williams has dubbed himself (I have nothing to beef about there), but was he the kid at school who would grab the girls and captain the sports teams, or was it the other way around and he's jus making up for it now?

T: Like you say, there isn't really anything to bear a grudge against, but personally as the record progresses I have realised that he's not gone as alternative as it first seemed he was going to. Basically this is indie in its poppiest form, and if it leads kids eventually into the path of artists like Flaming Lips, Pavement or Polak then the world will be a better place for us all. 7/10

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Red Hot Chili Peppers - By The Way(Warner Bros)

Another band renowned for taking their clothes off in the past, but hey, at least they kept their socks on! Still, the Peppers have matured, expanded and re-evaluated their sound on several occasions, culminating most recently in this 16 track chart topping album. Whoever said value for money was a thing of the past?

N: "By The Way", what a tune! So many artists fail to see the necessity of opening Broadway stylee with all guns blazing, or is it that the record companies are unsure of the right reaction and prefer to dip their toe, rather than take a bomb?

T: Personally I think it's the only track that COULD have opened the album as it paves the way for such a glorious record that is choc full of catchy, beautifully constructed rocking tunes and emotional setpieces that never become twee, even on tracks like "Cabrow", which, if attempted by another artist, would surely have been bundled deep in the abyss of the "Novelty" basket, but is carried off with aplomb by Flea and co who must be dangerously close to legendary status by now.

N: Legendary by rights. Surely this is the follow up to "BloodSugar..." in my collection at least. An album with such status that it could certainly change the world, a task a lot harder this time around.

T: This is Red Hot Chili Peppers best album by a street. 9/10

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The Apples In Stereo - Velocity Of Sound (spinART/Cooking Vinyl)

This, the Colorado outfit's fourth full-length album, sees the band blasting off in a new direction. Apparently it "explodes with fuzzed out hooks and buzzing guitars to produce a caffeine induced power-pop materpiece"! Phew, that's some build up. I hope we agree...

T: Like being taken back in a time machine to the sixties, but being able to take some more modern effects pedals back with you.

N: Surley far more spirited early nineties indie pop. Do you agree?

T: Yes, it reminds me of things like...

N: I only say that because neither of us can think of the group we're referring to, and even after scouring endless shelves topped high with tunes from yesteryear, and chart books? Well these are not a chart band.

T: Can I just bring up the Milltown Brothers? But with bigger balls. Or the Dylans. Actually I'd say they're more like new wave punk interspersed with early nineties indie. 8/10

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Tenacious D - Tenacious D (Sony Music)

For those of you new to Tenacious D, let me just tell you that the band consists of Hollywood actor Jack Black and the unfortunately named Kyle Gass. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Well, if I tell you that Dave Grohl has added his considerable talents to the the album, you may well decide to give it a whirl, and you may well be pleasantly surprised.

N: The token comedy album of the month. Bad News did it better but with Rik Mayall's tantrums who could refuse to warm? Spinal Tap anyone?

T: Although to be fair, comedy albums tend to lose their appeal after about 3 days in general. I remember buying neil's "Heavy Concept Album" not long after the second series of "The Young Ones" had first aired. I played it constantly for...ooh...half an hour, and then it was hidden in the darkest recesses of my collection to gather dust for the rest of its days. I have a feeling the same may happen to this. Very amusing on first listen though - but I'd say you're better off just downloading this one...

N: There is always space in anyone's record collection for albums such as these, as long as you remember that they will only make a token appearance from time to time, but having them is part of the joy, bearing in mind their sole reason for being is probably cash. 6/10

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Queen Adreena - Drink Me (Rough Trade)

The second album from Queen Adreena, following 2000's "Taxidermy", promises to be ferocious, eerie, beautiful, compelling, angry and twisted all at the same time. Hey, that sounds just like me! But is it "stuffed" with classic tunes?

T: Well, the first single from the album, "Pretty Like Drugs" is actually starting to give me a bit of a hard on, to be honest.

N: We really have had some good releases to round of the year this month haven't we?

T: Yeah, sorry about that.

N: I forgot, I'll go a little gentler next time.

T: This is definitely shagging music, as long as your girlfriend isn't into R Kelly or Another Level (and if she is, you should seriously think about dumping her), and especially good is she's particularly dirty in bed. Courtney Love would leap on you immediately if you pulled this out of your pocket (the record I mean). 8/10

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Richard Ashcroft - Human Conditions (Virgin Records ltd)

It wasn't all that long ago that Richard Ashcroft was riding the crest of a wave with Verve...ooh sorry.."The" Verve, after umpteen years with the band trying to break into the nation's consciousness. When he returned with some impressive solo work, we all jumped for joy that such a true talent had graced us with his presence once again. Except of course that I thought he sounded like Ronan Keating on that album. Hopefully he'll sway me this time around.

N: Is it just me or do Richard's compositions always suggest at that swagger that he made infamous by the Rolling Stones cover "Bittersweet Symphony"? It must be something in the timing.

T: I am delighted to report that Ronan doesn't seem to rear his ugly head in any shape or form on this album, a lot of the tracks seem to take inspiration from Bob Dylan, a far more welcome role model.

N: And he's got the haircut to boot. Richard Ashcroft - the man who's turned bad hair days into a career.

T: Look who's talking! Anyway, I am sure Richard is going for a far more mature audience these days, and most of those people will have ridiculous hair by now, which may explain why you like him so much.

N: To be serious though, the acoustics of this album are really incredible. The long lost talents of the church organ as the fifth member are utilised well. 7/10

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DJ Quartz - Drum and Bass compilation no.3

The mix starts with a melodic intro and moves on through an eclectic range of sounds becoming darker and more hard edged as the the set goes on. The production is flawless and the mixing maybe a bit too simple which removes some of the warmth and natural feel to this mix. Whilst the set builds throughout it never quite reaches a peak that the listener is expecting, which leads me to say that this would make a good end of night chill out selection.

Nic Caesar - The Funkaholics (Off The Wall) 5/10



Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man - Out Of Season (Go Beat)

Beth, as we all really should know, is the lovely singer from Portishead. Where the hell have they been!?5 years and still no sign of an album, it seems that shes been killing time with Paul Webb from Talk Talk and been listening to some 60's soul music. But don't worry, this album is possibly the most beautiful album you will hear all year.

The voice is the same. But different. It seems that in each song, she assumes the voice of another to tell the tale of woe that she sings. Sometimes it's straight, like on the opener "Mysteries", and on others it sounds strangely dirty like on "Rustin Man". Each song has lovely arrangements...never overplayed and all very organic. "Tom The Model" is a song which is Elvis Las Vegas Years backing a simply glorious vocal of longing and heartbreak, but the sound it makes is a beauty of a pop song that few bands can pull off.

The production has familiarity to Portishead in its original use of texture. This is explained by Mr Utely from the band overseeing production duty with the duo. Yet the production never detracts from this gorgeous collection of songs.

They don't write 'em like that anymore. Oh, they do, and here they are.

Parker Biro 9/10

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