Single Reviews: February 2004

 

Jamelia - Thank You (Parlophone)

Those of you who never heard Jamelia's previous single "Superstar" have either been on Mars or in a coma for the last year, and even THEN you'd have struggled to have missed it! This is her latest attempt at replicating that success.

T: You may think me a little sappy for saying this, but I think this is a damn good pop song really, as her previous release was. I admit it is rather derivative of TLC's "Unpretty" but there's something different about Jamelia that sets her apart from all of her counterparts.

N: Admittedly not my usual tipple, but I was quite stunned by her lyrical presentation here. Intelligently written and put across extremely well. Yeah, "Superstar"...this girl is definitely set to become one. 8/10

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Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club - Upside Down (Jerry Fish/Rubyworks)

The first single from the band's "Be Yourself" album, the aforementioned long player is already fast approaching platinum status in their native Ireland.

T: The finest moment from the album by far, this is like a cross between Bob Dylan and Mink De Ville's seventies smash "Spanish Stroll". And it works, which may surprise you somewhat, but it does.

N: On first listen, I wouldn't have given this the time of day, but as I should, later acquaintance proved more amenable. Lou reed meets Dylan at a stoned out party somewhere in Central America, and believe me, it gets better. Just stick with it.

T: I noticed that you've already dusted off your flares in preparation...

N: Dusted them off? They're positively my chosen streetwear!

T: Ooh you trendsetter you. 7/10

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Carina Round - Lacuna (Dehische)

This will be the second single lifted from Carina's critically acclaimed album "The Disconnection".

T: Can you see and hear a striking similarity between Carina Round and Patti Smith? I can, and I'd be most surprised if she wasn't a huge idol of Carina's. There are moments too when I can hear snippets of a female David Sylvian in the vocals. Am I mad?

N: Did you notice that playing this for the first time, I turned up the volume? I love this, this singer is amazing. Remember PJ harvey in their early days? She's got the same kind of attitude and the production here is similarly astonishing. And as far as your reference to Sylvian goes, that came ringing loud and clear to me too. 10/10

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Razorlight - Stumble And Fall (Vertigo)

I could listen to this tune, end on end, for hours and have come pretty close so far. With pre-release airplay aplenty, this hit the spot I think on first hearing and is a 3 minute number that I'm certain you will find is a real gem.

This London based group, Razorlight have had to contend with 'sky-high' expectations of them from early on, but have faultlessly dealt with this attention culminating last year in being asked to play alongside Suede on their farewell tour, surely that's got to hold astronomically in the crebility stakes!

Anyway what can I say that you haven't already heard, Johnny Borrell holds in my mind some close calling to that of Jarvis Cocker in elements of his vocal presentation on this number, genius and we haven't even seen their debut album yet, for this we'll have to wait until May. But I'm sure he sings something my CD won't let me hear. 10/10 (undoubtly)

Nick James

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Belle And Sebastian - I'm A Cuckoo (Rough Trade)

Lifted from the much adored album 'Dear Catastrophere Waitress' (the very name conjours such fantastic images), comes probably the most immeadiate of numbers on the album to make it out on its own. 'I'm A Cuckoo' is musically and vocally such a magical tune, that will not only lift the greyest of days, but have you singing along in moments, if it's only the 'hook line', such is the hastened vocal rush of the rest of the tune. This matters not though, B&S have returned and what a return! 9/10

Nick James

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Death Cab For Cutie - The New Year (Fierce Panda)

The hush is on, 'Death Cab For Cutie' are what you may lovingly refer to as an 'undergrond sensation'. I've seen a few of these and have not failed to be blown away by these band's output, I hope that this one will fill the same criteria.

From Seattle, USA, "where? Oh there", DCFC (sounds like a football club, maybe from the lower leagues), are not new to what we refer to as the 'music scene', previously having had released 3 albums, before their lastest, 'Transalanticism'. But just so that you're not heading in the wrong direction as far as trying to fathom this band out, DCFC are not your average grunge outfit, sweaty and full of narcotic overdrive. No these to me are more North of the border, Chicago or somewhere cold in climate. With quite an experimental 'scetch pad' to hand, they produce sounds of texture and changing pace, that of course 'rock'.

So discovering that this 4 peice come from the 'Feirce Panda' stable, will come as no surprise, a label not afraid to forward sound and pick up where many a predecessor left off, bowed out or just ran out of cash. This is not just a single, but a whole 3 track mini LP, sound veering from 'rock', to 'vocal harmony', to 'hip-hop' with effortless ease. DCFC, something to get exited about. 10/10

Nick James

(Dreadful picture you may say, but I think this is part of it, loose and distinctly 'alternative'.)


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Ryan Adams - So Alive (Mercury)

I've seen few biographies that when describing an artist list 8 things they have formerly worked as, but first have described that artist as a "twat", so where does that leave me? Well like the majority of the music buying public, sounds a little like 'Bryan Adams' and I think we've all had our fill of that one, but listen to the music and I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. Ok this is 'rock'n'roll', as well as having an album of the same name, he can occasionally veers into territory previously vocally occupied by the phenomena now known as 'The Darkness'. This is music that will go down well with an audience of formerly 'indie-kids', strong back beats and jangly guitar. The only obsticle I can see in this artists way maybe one that will forever be the name he was given at his birth in Novemeber 1974, well you can't blame his parents for not having foresaw the future, maybe 'Dirk' as was recently suggested maybe a better choice. But all that said Ryan is not doing too badly as we speak, maybe mega-stardom will indeed beacon. With more killer tunes like this one, it maybe Bryan who is mistaken at the record counter. 9/10

Nick James

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The Poppy Fields - 45 R.P.M. (Snapper Music)

Whether the group are themselves promoting a burgeoning career or just here to remind us that The Alarm are due to hit the road again in March, I'm uncertain, but their music certainly pays homage to yesterdays heros. We are told in the minor information supplied with the release that this is in the shape of The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and Clash, as well as some of todays more minor heros - I can't neccessarily hear the former two ringing in my ears, although the solid sounds that made Strummer 'et 'al such a ringing success certainly is here, if only in sound and spirit.

This sub 3 minute tune I felt somewhat annoyed on first listen, although discovered that once ended the tune was still there in my mind and subsequent listens proved that falling in love with this band wasn't hard to do. I did say that the sound of The Clash was most certainly there, although coming from the North-West, another group may also have been and this I felt may've be Welsh'sters The Manic Stret Preachers, but not as we hear them today, sold-out and gone to the grave, but as a hungry 4 peice, playing minor venues in the early nineties.

With their music firmly grounded, a sharp guitar backed by heavy bass and crashing drums, this band put on a good show, if only in the minor venue of my living room. It does seem somewhat flat though when what they should in fact be singing is 200 R.P.M.. This may be a homage to yeserday's passion, but what will tomorrows heros pay homage to? The indestructable silver disc, that will not play if you shove it in the toaster, use it as a beer mat, before finally feeding it to your computer! As singles go, I really was very impressed. 9/10

Nick James

 
 

 

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – Redemption Song / Arms Aloft (Hellcat)

A bit of an oddity this one. Quite why the record company has opted to release an average cover version of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ contemporary classic as the main track when there are far stronger ones on the album I really don’t know. I mean, this just sounds like what it is – Joe Strummer playing a Bob Marley song on an acoustic guitar. Maybe that was the whole point, but if it was, then forgive me for missing it.

Still, thankfully the single is double A-sided with one of the strongest tunes from the album – “Arms Aloft” is an anthemic stomper of a song (“May I remind you of that scene / we were arms aloft in Aberdeen” – perfect alliteration) and had it been a single in its own right, I may well have seen fit to have given it at least nine out of ten.

As it is though, I’m gonna have to e tough on one of my all time idols. 7/10

Tone E

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I Am Kloot – From Your Favourite Sky (Echo)

Starting off like the score from a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, this transforms into a moody and atmospheric single along the lines of an early Oasis b-side (when they were still credible).

Certainly not the strongest track on the album by a long chalk, but then they’ve already released the best ones from it anyway, so I can’t really complain!

You DO find yourself wishing they sounded a little less like the Gallagher brothers though. 7/10

Tone E

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Brand New – Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades (Eat Sleep)

Now THIS is a band that impresses me. I mean, a few years back, they released a pretty good album called “Your Favourite Weapon”, which included the odd gem such as “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad”, “Failure By Design” and “The No Seatbelt Song” but no caveats were sounded to inform us that they would soon be morphing into glorious world beaters.

They seem to have progressed from above average emo-rockers to writers of phenomenally infectious four minute pop tunes, and this nugget, with its creeping bassline and breathy vocals, is no exception to that rule.

The CD even carries a wondrously watered down acoustic version of their excellent former single “The Quiet Things That No-one Ever Knows”.

These guys push the boundaries of what our perception of the “emo” genre ia all about, and I, for one, hope they are around for a long, long time to come. 9/10

Tone
E

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Funeral For a Friend – Escape Artists Never Die (Warner Music)

Back in the eighties, Iron Maiden were at the peak of their career, releasing records that not only staunch metal fans could relate to, but also appealing to the general public with infectious melodies and killer guitar riffs, and as such, their place in British Rock history was cemented.

Funeral For a Friend seem to have taken over that mantle now, and by grabbing all the best bits from early Maiden and merging them with their own unique brand of emo/screamo, the band comes up trumps with this fourth single from their debut album “Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation”. In fact this is the one track from it that could actually BE Bruce Dickinson and co!

Anyway, hopefully they won’t milk the album too much now they’ve released 4 from it – I might have to start marking them down otherwise! 8/10

Tone E

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Alfie – No Need (Regal)

I like Alfie. They’ve been going for several years now, and STILL all their songs sound exactly the same! Ah well, at least it’s a pretty good song!
This time around they’ve dressed it up in brass bonnets and stuck a trumpet dummy in its mouth in a shameless effort to hide this fact.
So, in summation, this is unlikely to win over any new fans, but I’m sure it will be embraced by all the band’s existing ones anyway! 7/10

Tone E

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Turin Brakes – Moonlight Mile (Whoa)

Ok, so it’s a cover version of a classic Rollng Stones number. In accordance with rule one of my own personally instigated guidelines, I have to knock a point off for not releasing an original song. Rule two – has the artist tried to creatively alter or improve the song in any way? Well, no. Not particularly. Another point docked then.
On to rule three – has the artist made a decent fist of covering the track? Oh hell YES! This is as extremely faithful to the original as you could hope to get, featuring precisely the kind of warmth that was so eminent upon it the first time around.
So, I guess, all in all it was a worthwhile exercise. 8/10

Tone E

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The Fiery Furnaces – Tropical Iceland (Rough Trade)

They’ve been described as the “White Stripes’ younger siblings let loose in a studio”, but aside from being a brother/sister act, that’s where the similarity ends. This outfit seems to owe a lot more to the UK scene from the late sixties and bands like The Small Faces.

They’ve been supporting Franz Ferdinand and Hot Hot Heat recently, but on this far too bubblegum showing, for my liking, they still have some way to go before they achieve anything NEAR the status of their road buddies. 6/10

Tone E

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The Rapture – Love Is All (Vertigo)

Going by some of the previous output released by this band, I was expecting something better than this, to be frank.
“Love Is All” is a rather weedy and ineffectual track that could well have been a watered down version of Justin Hawkins and co. And I don’t even like HIS band very much!
The unusual second track, “I Need Your Love”, with its pulsating rhythm is a vast improvement on the lead, but it’s not enough to save this pitiful offering. 4/10

Tone E

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The Stranglers – Big Thing Coming (Liberty/EMI)

“Big Thing Coming” is a triumphant return to form for the former “punk” greats. It’s probably down to the swirling synthesizer sounds, and the whole thing harks back to the heady days of the late seventies. Hell, it’s probably the best thing they’ve done SINCE the seventies (“Golden Brown” aside of course).
It’s a more than welcome comeback too, the band having seemed to have spent a good decade or so in the creative wilderness and releasing little of any merit. So I’m delighted to say that this is the first “great” Stranglers single for aeons. 8/10

Tone E

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