Single Reviews: April 2004

 

The Stranglers – Long Black Veil (Liberty / EMI)

Nowhere near as instant as their last offering, the top 40 hit “Big Thing Coming”, this is, nevertheless, a further confirmation that The Stranglers have returned to form of late. Perhaps it’s just the laid back guitar riff, but this is what these guys do best, even if it’s NOT one of the best tracks on their latest album.

Still, featured here is the splendidly messed up tune “Waltzinblack”, which you’ve no doubt heard on the recent Vodaphone ads (the one that sounds a bit like The Mobiles’ “Drowning In Berlin”) and that in itself is worth buying the CD for! 7/10

Tone E

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Lene Marlin – Another Day (Virgin / EMI)

Lene Marlin strikes me as being a Norwegian version of Dido, despite having had her first hit single before the latter artist. There ARE a lot of similarities though – both play inoffensive background music, they are both singer/songwriters in their own right, and both of them I’d like to give a right good seeing to!

Anyway, this is pretty much what you might expect – a not unpleasant middle of the road track, but not particularly exciting either. Bland but not bad. 6/10

Tone E

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Willis – Take You High e.p. (679 Recordings)

It’s a bit of an oddity this one. After all, I know deep down that this is a very good single, and musically very well accomplished, but the fact remains that I just don’t like it.

I hold my hands up guv, I really haven’t got a good reason for my aversion, but that’s just the way it is. Maybe it’s my M-People syndrome again – I thought they were a decent band but I really couldn’t stand Heather Small’s voice. But then, on this e.p. I can’t claim that, because I am a lot fonder of the other three tracks on it, having as they do a distinct Janis-Joplin-at-a-folk-festival kind of feel.

And I have to admit, that’s the best cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” that I’ve heard to date! 6/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Cathy Davey - Come Over EP (Regal)

A wonderful discovery should you have the foresight. Cathy, like those before her, Kate Bush and P J Harvey certainly, but also American singer/song writer Lisa Germano, who sing from a purely female perspective have a lot in common with this dynamite of modern indie-rock. This 4-track EP heralds the release of her Ben Hillier produced album and when she screams in the chorus on the title track, this only adds to wet the appetite.

Growing up in Dublin, Cathy does nothing to hide this fact, none more-so than on the number 'Hammerhead'. I think it would be a commonly held impression, but there's something truly sexy about the Irish accent and when this is used in the context of a song, as is done with unashamed ease here, the dynamite I mentioned earlier comes at you full-force. What more to say, than brilliant, oh and you may already be familiar with this singer from the part she played on Elbow's 'Grace Under Pressure'. 10/10

Nick James

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Seal - Waiting For You/Love's Divine (Warner Bros.)

"I have seen no light brighter than you and I can't deny these things that I do, it feels like the whole world's at stake...", Seal has been outside the room for some 5 years or more, but with his latest album 'IV', his entrance is truly flamboyant. This collection of songs will surely go down as some of the greatest love songs of all time, from the cheeky 'funk' used to break up the awesome power of the first song offered here and the one I quote from, to the subtle tranquility of his second number 'Love's Divine'. Seal marks his territory and let no one be at doubt as to his status, 'Killer' was just the warm up. This singer/songwriter is back and here to stay. 9/10

Nick James

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Lenny Kravitz - Where Are We Runnin' (Virgin Records)

A single taken from his forthcoming album 'Baptism'. This couldn't be further removed from the hippy-chic of '89's 'Let Love Rule'. 2002's 'Are You Gonna Go My Way?' may give you a better "yard-stick" with which to get a feel for this by, but still in it's stripped down state is some distance from its predecessor. This is dirty rock'n'roll, with a Lenny I found it hard to make an immediate link to, but with repeated play's this number found an infectious string that saw the old Lenny gain ground, but still I need more - not long to wait now with the album released on the 17th of May. 7/10

Nick James

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The Infadels – Can’t Get Enough (Dead At Thirty)

A bit like Mirwais joining forces with Gary Stringer from Reef, and borrowing the rhythm section from the Lo-Fidelity All Stars, the Infadels’ latest release is an infectious floor filling crowd pleaser with a simple but effective guitar riff looping throughout.
Heavy bass beats and a singalong chorus will make this a winner at the forthcoming summer festivals. 7/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Seafood – Good Reason (Cooking Vinyl)

Bearing far more resemblance to their “When Do We Start Fighting” album than to their rather ‘sunny’ sounding recent download only single “Summer Falls”, this sees the band on top form.

Worryingly though, the line “Give me one good reason to love you, give me one good reason at all” puts me in mind of the old Jason Donovan cheesefest that was “Too Many Broken Hearts” back in the late eighties (Oh come on, surely you remember!), but thankfully this does not detract from your listening pleasure. In fact, in my own warped and twisted way, I found it actually enhanced it!

Further tracks “Last Outpost” and “Sold Up” show the boys in an altogether more sombre mood and very effective they are too. Welcome back guys, we’ve missed you. 9/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Lucky Jim – You Stole My Heart Away (Skint)

An acoustic number that you could have expected Roy Orbison to have performed on “Later with Jools Holland” had the legendary shadesman still been alive today.

The odd thing here is that, the further you delve into their CD, the more it sounds like Del Amitri, which put me off a little at first, to be honest. Then I realised that I must have at some time been subconsciously conditioned by the pretentious indie music press, and remembered that Del Amitri were not actually the bland middle class boredom merchants that they’d made them out to be. Once you come to terms with that, you realise that Lucky Jim may well be a force to be reckoned with in the not too distant future. 8/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

The Mendoza Line – Before I Hit the Wall (Cooking Vinyl)

A bit like a less “college rock” version of Feeder’s “Buck Rogers”, the Mendoza
Line’s new single is a delicious portion of rock ‘n’ roll that stops and starts in all the right places.
They’ve been going for rather a long time now, but it would appear that the band have improved with age. After all, this is splendid stuff indeed, and the fact that they’ve included a further track here that pays tribute to one of my all time heroes (“Our Consumptive King – for Joe Strummer”) only serves to endear me even more to this great single. 9/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Senser - Bulletproof/Crucible (One Little Indian)

That's right, for those of you who remember them first time round, Senser are back, reformed and preparing for the release of their 3rd album, 'Schematic' later in May. While we're on the point, I think it fair to admit to not actually remembering any of their previous output, other than that slamming against my head whilst bouncing around at whatever the rock-club of the day, for me, that was back then! Now recovered, I can't say I ever owned that described as "truly seminal and mould breaking album 'Stacked Up'" either come to that and it is now that I realise that 'Senser' were more an experience than a possession, but what about this new experience, how does it stack up?

Well it's Senser, full-on and political to their core, music well suited for volumes above that of comfortable listening, played whilst bouncing around the floor of your chosen club, although 'Bulletproof' would make a fine soundtrack to a blast 'em up video game. Altogether with this taken into account it's pretty good, but with this only available as a limited 'white label' pressing and another single due for release before the album, let's wait a while before we pass final judgement on whether this is to be a relaunch or just the final chapter. 6/10

Nick James

If you've not been able to secure yourself a copy of this single, now here's your chance with a free download available on the band's web site.

 
 

 

Hilary Duff – Why Not (Buena Vista)

“Oh NO!” I hear you cry, “Not another slice of sugar coated bubblegum fluff from Hollywood’s latest jailbait teen sensation Hilary Duff!”
Well it could be worse, believe me. As far as pop songs go, this is one of the least offensive ones I’ve heard in some time (although, in the line “Why not do a crazy dance?”, I’m unsure whether to laugh pitifully at its absurdity, or tear my hair out because of its crappiness!)
Now, I’ve got to be objective here and say that, although I wouldn’t buy this unless I was dressed in a false beard and heavily camouflaged, it is still far better than Blue, Westlife, Blazin’ Squad and their ilk, and I wouldn’t turn the radio off in disgust if it came on.
So, taking that as my yardstick, and regarding this as just what it is – a throwaway pop song, it really ain’t that bad! 7/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Air – Surfing On a Rocket (Source)

Probably more of a grower than previous Air releases, this single certainly does NOT make you feel as though you are “surfing on a rocket”. It made me feel more like I was collapsed in a drunken heap on my bed in the small hours of the morning after a heavy night out on the ale (about three Budweisers in my case). But that’s what I love about Air – it doesn’t matter whether you’re up or down, happy or sad, in a rage or feeling placid, the fact is that their music acts as a tranquiliser every time, and I reckon it won’t be too long before doctors start prescribing their music as such.
Not one of their best but it fills a gap all the same. 7/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Dilated Peoples ft Kanye West – This Way (Capitol)

It would appear that Dilated Peoples have decided that they want to sound like Nelly.
This is rather unfortunate because A) I think Nelly is shit and B) I am very fond of some of this group’s previous output.
It’s not ALL like the illiterate pop rapper though – the verses are more like Tupac, and are all the more credible for it. It bothers me though that you can quite easily imagine Backstreet Boys singing this whilst performing one of their poncey dance routines.
Handy then that the CD includes an instrumental version, and this is far and away the highpoint of it. Listening to the third and final version – an acapella one – you are left with the indelible impression that Dilated Peoples are turning into a “poor man’s Outkast”.
Well ok, I admit, it’s not THAT bad a single, but I was more than a little disappointed. 6/10

Tone E

web site

 
 

 

Septembre - Rule 3: Conceal Your Attentions e.p (Sugarshack)

Former frontman for Vex Red, Terry Abbott returns with a brand new band, formed with bassist Jim Lee and drummer Sammy Lee Tomlinson. This is the end result.

N: The cover reeks of Bauhaus reminiscence, but unfortunately their music doesn't deliver. Certainly brave to offer this no doubt underground breed of rock, but it doesn't work for me.

T: A sentiment I would have to agree with. I appreciate that they're not conforming to what the music industry expects of them, and I respect them for that, but I can't see myself getting heavily into this band in the near future. Or at all in fact. 6/10

web site

 
 

 

Amplifier - Neon (Music For Nations)

Amplifier have just performed their first European live show in Krakow, Poland and are about to embark on a new set of UK dates with Winnebago Deal. Their debut album will be released in May.

T: It beggars belief when you first find out that this band is from Manchester, England and not somewhere Stateside, such is their American post grunge sound, and I for one hope they can change the face of music for the better. I say that because, whilst Nirvana were rightly reknowned as one of the most important bands of all time, they unfortunately gave rise to a whole bunch of unimpressive Cobain wannabes not long after the legendary frontman's death - a phenomenon that sadly haunts us to this day. At least Amplifier are trying to do it differently and take that kind of rock onto the next rung of the ladder.

N: My view differs little. The name and spirit of this band's presentation screams "rock". A class of sedated Therapy? might be considered, or the sound of a Seattle garage band, circa '91. 9/10

web site

 
 

 

Agnetha Faltskog - If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind (WEA)

Yes you heard right. Cue the sound of several elderly men rushing to retrieve their old dirty mac from the closet, as Abba's blonde bombshell returns, wrinkles and all, with this, the first single to be taken from her eagerly anticipated album "My Colouring Book".

T: Starts off like The Korgis' "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", then turns into something reminiscent of Hazel O'Connor's "Will You", before ultimately becoming something unmistakeably Abba. This is like a time warp back to the bad old days when the Brotherhood of Man and "Seasons In the Sun" and "Yes Sir I Can Boogie" could be wordlwide smash hits. Hmmm...hang on a minute, the songs that reach number one these days are generally worse versions of those songs...

N: Whoa! Is it 1974? 1981? This has sent my head spinning. I should really stop taking that course of medication! Oh no, it's Agnetha. Everything is in place again. Being serious for the mere moment my brain will allow, I'll proceed, and say thatthis doesn't have the "funk" that Benny and Bjorn lent to Abba compositions, but is a mild paced, well written middle of the road tune that should certainly find home with all the "grown up" fans of her former incarnation...although maybe complete this time with bathchair and "big slpper". 4/10

web site

 
 

 

The Beta Band - Assessment (Regal)

Almost certainly one of the most influential bands of the last decade, the Beta Band return after a lengthy eighteen month absence with what is described as "the most full on rock track the band have ever recorded".

N: Even though we hear these guys have been away for some time, due to their influence they could certainly fool us into thinking they had never in fact gone away, and were with us the whole time, if not in presence, certainly in spirit. A cracking comeback from these guys, possessing both rock and pace, yet still retaining an air of mystery with it.

T: And yes, even though the very first chord makes you think it's going to be a cover of U2's "Pride {In the Name of Love"), this is a very strong single indeed. 9/10

 
 

 

The Belles - Never Said Anything (Eat Sleep Records)

Hailing from Lawrence in Texas, this duo has recently toured the UK with both Magnet and the Pernice Brothers and feature a cover of the Lemonheads' "My Drug Buddy" on one of the later tracks released here.

T: In total contrast to what I said about the Sleepy Jackson, this band's music, whilst also dreamy and typical of a summer evening, tends to actually grow on me every time I hear it. This track is a case in point - at first I thought it was just a run-of-the-mill, pleasantly acoustic cure for insomnia. On subsequent listens however I've come to think of this as a magnificently chilled out anthem for the hotter months ahead.

N: I can't disagree with you here. "Never Said Anything" is a simply crafted song with good musical arrangements that fit the composition perfectly. To my mind, a latter day Dodgy that hold great promise to a vast audience, even when it comes to the Slade-esque chimes midway through. 9/10

web site

 
 

 

Polly Paulusma - Dark Side (One Little Indian)

Polly has recently completed full UK tours with Gary Jules and Jamie Cullum, and this is the first single to be lifted from her forthcoming album "Scissors In My Pocket" which will be out at the end of the month.

T: Well it's hardly the rocket up the arse I was looking for to inspire me in my current mood. Still, I cannot deny the absolute beauty of this single from a new singer songwriter who so obviously takes a large slice of influence from the likes of Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and countless others from that legendary ilk. And it works so well - Paulusma is lyrically adept and her music just seers wonderfully. Best record I've heard today by a street mile.

N: A song with a pace that the songwriter has been careful to ensure rides the crest of her musical wave effortlessly. Those singer songwriters you quote are spot on - and a top tune to boot. 9/10

web site

 
 

 

Sophia - Oh My Love (City Slang)

Sophia is really just one man - Robin Proper Sheppard, and on this record he is assisted by a whole host of musicians otherwise known as the Sophia Collective.

N: Sung with the indifference of a sleepy Billy Corgan, these guys I have to say "rock" in a post modernist kind of way. How would you describe them?

T: Exactly the same way you just did. It could actually be Corgan's recent band Zwan performing more tender moments from each of the Pumpkins' albums. But yeah, I like it too. I think I really need to be blown away by something though - I feel like being blasted by some outrageous post hardcore stuff right now, I'm not in an easy listening mood...

N: Ok but dragging this from your sobriety, how would you mark this?

T: By letting YOU mark it.

N: I'd give it an eight...

T: Good, 'cause that's exactly what I'd have given it. 8/10

 
 

 

The Sleepy Jackson - This Day (Virgin)

T: You know, the only problem I have with this band is that, on first listen, you think "What a great song!" - then you play it again and think "Yes it's a good track", and then by your third or fourth play it all becomes a bit blaise and you tend to find yourself getting bored quickly. Or maybe that's just me. They actually remind me a little of Amen Corner, and I defy anyone to tell me they could listen to "(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice" three times consecutively without wanting to jump into a vat of boiling acid afterwards.

N: I think we must have finally tuned into the same wavelength! But surely this is a rip roaring tune where singer/songwrite Tom Petty can be seen peeking from around the corner of another passage of slide guitar. Plenty has gone into the production of this one, everything besides the kitchen sink, so it would seem.

T: But how many times have you played it? Are you at stage one - acceptance? stage two - denial? or are you at stage three - wanting to smash the CD player brought about through irrational niceness?

N: Well the CD player still plays, so the stage is yet to be ascertained. 6/10

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Phoenix - Run, Run, Run (Source)

T: A summery lo-funk soundtrack to somebody's middle class outdoor dinner party, which is rather too "nice" a production for me to care too much for. In fact, it's not a million miles away from the old eighties band Curiosity Killed the Cat, and that doesn't really fill me with enthusiasm. Take that beret off Nick.

N: This is where we would differ, as I feel that the tight arrangement inherent in this tune screams with the spirit of a mid seventies songwriter when it comes to the stripped down chorus. However, far greater production opens this up toward the end in an untidy cacophany of sound.

T: Looks like we're going to be at eachother's throats again for the marking then! I didn't care much for this at all. In fact, it excited me about as much as Ann Widdecombe in stockings and suspenders (not much, before you ask). 5/10

 
 

 

The Bees - Wash In the Rain (Virgin)

T: Having released some absolute corkers in the past, the Bees are back with a suitably loopy sounding track (at least when you get to the final quarter of the single, at which point an electric guitar that sounds like a lute having a fight with a mellotron runs amok). A smoky late sixties feel adds to this band's impressive catalogue and enables them to continue in the rich vein that has delighted their audiences since their inception.

N: You're right. For me, this rang with the air of a mod revival, a la Ocean Colour Scene, and might even be considered pretenders to the Great Weller. Something else however - if this is the case, their audience is enormous.

T: But did you like it? I thought it was great, personally.

N: Yeah, in an inconsequential kind of way... 7/10

web site

 
 

 

22-20s - Why Don't You Do It For Me (Heavenly)

If you're a regular listener of 6music, wherever you are in the world, you may already be familiar with this tune. Releasing "Why Don't You Do It For Me" as the first track from their forthcoming studio album, the band will have recently completed a set of dynamic performances whilst headlining the NME Britpack tour.

N: The lyrics in this song leave it to the listener's imagination exactly who he's singing about - a girl who the protagonist holds a fascination for, or his girlfriend, a working girl? Whichever way, this is incredibly sleazy, from the words sung right down to the dirty composition. A tune that'll set pulses racing, and raise the heckles on the back of the neck.

T: I have to admit, to me it sounded like a less convincing early number by The Wonder Stuff. Not that I disliked it at all. I just didn't think there was the urgency contained in the track that there should have been. Having said that, I'd prefer listening to this than 98 per cent of the charts! 8/10

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Iain Archer - Boy Boy Boy (Bright Star/PIAS)

Formerly of Reindeer Section and Snow patrol, Iain Archer decided that this time he wanted the record to "feel broken. To mess things up and allow a bit of chaos in there. I wanted it to be as honest as it could be, to create something fractured and raw".

T: This is a great single. A fine melody, and one that wouldn't offend your parents. Don't let that put you off though, this is a well structured single and certainly worth giving the time of day.

N: I'll agree, but first off perhaps I should mention that I've already marked this. Will you agree? As you say, a well structured single that is worthy of taking your breath away. As a 7 inch it comes as a 2 track, whilst the CD release throws in another tune, all of the same quality. 9/10 (he agreed)

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