Singles Reviews: May 2001

My Vitriol - Grounded (Infectious)

Given that I said "Always:Your Way" was the best single I had heard in three years, they were always going to be pushing it with their next release. No matter though, as "Finelines" is such a superb album that they really could have released just about anything from it and had praise heaped lavishly on them in these pages. "Grounded" is another ridiculously good single, high on emotion and beautifully soul warming guitars are used to tremendous effect. If I spent a whole month praising this band to every person I met it still wouldn’t be enough. If ever there were two "must buy albums" then "Finelines" and the new Ash album are prime contenders. Two other reasons to buy this single: one, it’s got an astonishing cover version of Madonna’s "Oh Father" on it, and two, the acoustic version of their previous single which just about made me weep in awe. 5/5 Tone E.

Dirty Vegas — Days Go By (Credence/Parlophone)

Same kind of feel as Chicane’s "Don’t Give Up, but minus the Canadian bloke who’s swallowed three sheets of sandpaper. This kind of stuff makes me feel as though I’m sleeping in a remote bus stop somewhere in the early hours of the morning. I must have been a vagrant in a past life, although some of my nearest colleagues would have you believe I still am. Next time you feel all hot and sweaty, put this on to cool yourself down. 3/5 Tone E

The Divine Comedy — Bad Ambassador (Parlophone)

Strange as this may sound, if you were to plonk this track on the end of Warren Zevon’s 1978 album "Excitable Boy" you would barely notice. Personally I think that’s a great album anyway so it’s quite a strong compliment to this string laden beauty plucked from their recent long player. "I’m not the pope and I don’t want to be the archbishop of Canterbury" Neil Hannon informs us. I know the feeling — those silly hats must give you a hell of a headache. Nice. 4/5 Tone E

Starsailor — Good Souls (Chrysalis)

I’ve missed Ian McCulloch’s presence in the charts for the last few years, so it’s something of a relief that Starsailor have seen fit to blatantly copy his vocal style and add in a pinch of Verve at their moodiest ebb. This is a beautiful and epic production with lyric to match — "Thank goodness for the good souls that make life better". We are blessed to have bands such as Starsailor gracing the airwaves at present; it almost makes me think they wrote that very line about themselves. The band look oddly like my cousins in the seventies, which is slightly freaky but still. Outstanding stuff. 5/5 Tone E

Manbreak — Dark Age (One Little Indian)

This starts off like a blend of Mansun and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but when the "big in" begins, it sounds unquestionably like a grown up version of The Wonder Stuff. The fact that the chorus could have been written by Aerosmith or the Black Crowes and the bridge by Neil Finn make it hard to believe that the band were influenced by Rage Against The Machine. That can be heard more on track two "Apathy", but Steve Swindelli still sounds exactly like Miles Hunt. Still, the Stuffies always had an ear for a good catchy pop record and it seems that Manbreak are carrying on the tradition. 3.5/5 Tone E

28 Days — Sucker (Mushroom)

If you’ve been a regular visitor to these pages since we began, you will know that I have already reviewed this once as one of the tracks on the "Kid Indestructible" ep. Now, I know that I have been known to change my mind at the drop of a hat but the fact remains that I really do like this record. I always expect Justine Frieschman to start singing after the Elastica guitar type intro, but then the Fred Durst like vocal starts and takes you on your open top bus ride around the town of Nu-Rock. 4/5 Tone E

Everclear — When It All Goes Wrong Again (Capitol)

Practically guaranteed to be featured on one of those "Top Gear" compilations that grace the shelves of our favourite record stores every now and again. This is like something Kiss or Whitesnake would have come up with at the tail end of the seventies or beginning of the eighties. Frighteningly, it also sounds like a heavier version of J Geils Band (of "Centerfold" fame). Given that comparison, even scarier is the fact that I quite liked it. 3/5 Tone E

Clearlake — Let Go (Dusty Company)

At just 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Clearlake seem intent on reviving the old Smiths tradition of extremely short but top quality singles. That can’t disguise the fact that this sounds very much like a Blur B-side circa "Parklife". Starts off with an almost techno feel(?) and once drawn further in seems to be hovering somewhere in space in the sixties…Mamas and Papas perhaps? The Damon Albarn soundalike vocal really is uncanny though. Interesting to say the least. 3.5/5 Tone E

Airlock — Face Down (One Little Indian)

This reminds me of two bands — Saint Etienne and Everything But The Girl. The fact that I am very fond of Saint Etienne and have never been able to bear EBTG tells me I ought to base this review around the former rather than the latter. It’s quite a mellow tune but — and this to me is pretty important — instantly forgettable. One of those songs I expect to hear every now and again but never getting beyond average and seems to last twice as long as it plays for. It’s ok if you like this kind of thing but it bores the crap out of me to be fair. 2/5 Tone E

Only Paradise — You Got The Way (V2)

I really hope this isn’t a hit. Not that it’s too bad, but for one simple reason: Like Phat’s and Small’s "Turn Around", like Stardust’s "Music Sounds Better With You" and like Daft Punk’s "One More Time", this has the worrying prospect of "over saturation" stamped on its forehead. I lost count of the times I tore my hair out and ran home crying due to the incessant forcefeeding of the three arorementioned singles thanks to the tunnel vision of most major radio stations. Aaagh no — it’s going to be a summer tune too. HELP. 2/5

The bikini EP - Environmental Science.
Wow. That was my first thought when I heard "Full Metal Bikini". It is a thumping, driving breakbeat track that has so much funk that it should have been the theme to last years remake of "Shaft". This is where music should be heading. On the B side, is the more main stream "Bikini in House Dub", which is great. It is a funky house number which builds and builds dragging you along with it. It is just a shame that radio one/kiss/galaxy won't pick up on it and make it the big hit that it deserves. Excellent. 4.5/5 Martyn Owen

Since you've been gone - Damage.

Damage have been around for ages, and it seems, are poised to be at the top of the UK R 'n' B scene for some years to come. Their best work is on the more uptempo tracks, "Ghetto romance", "I don't know" which features Emma Bunton , & "For your pleasure". That said, the album is more of a downtempo affair, which may please the more traditional R n B fans, but it's not really my sort of thing. Rather than pushing the music forward, like some of their U.S conterparts, Damage seem reluctant to try anything different with their music. This album could have been made as far back as 1992 and it wouldn't have seemed out of place. Don't get me wrong, some of the tracks are quite good "You're so fly" & the flamenco influenced "Maria" for two, but too many miss the spot, and they need to get more consistent if they are to live up to their promise.

Only for true fans. 2.5/5 Martyn Owen

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