Single Reviews: September 2003

 

Ima Robot – Song 1 (Virgin)

A bizarre single that, at select moments, has similarities to first Kraftwerk, then Adam and the Ants, The Buzzcocks and maybe even the Alpinestars. Anyway, if great build ups resulting in a chaotic shouty climax are your thing, then you could do worse than give this a whirl. It certainly impressed me. 8/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Frank Black and the Catholics – Nadine (Cooking Vinyl)

Probably the closest Frank Black has come to sounding ike The Pixies since he first went “solo”, and this is also possibly the best track on the band’s excellent “Show Me Your Tears” album. I just can’t get enough of tracks like these – you know, the ones where the great man comes over all shouty on us. I’m not entirely sure why this reminds me of Neil Young so much, but it does anyway. Still, Frank has always done such a good impression of the Canadian rocker and long may it continue. 9/10

Tone E

 
 

 

The Belles – (Who Will Be) Here To Hear? (Eat Sleep)

Yet another band that sounds like Teenage Fanclub. Still, it’s a pretty mellow little number and although it doesn’t really go anywhere, the fact is that it doesn’t really need to. It seems to be the musical equivalent of a happy wanderer. The missus pointed out to me that if you stripped away the vocals from these tracks, you’d have something akin to French chillout merchants Air. I thought she was crackers at first when she said that, but the more I listen, I can see that she was probably right. 7/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Rancid – Fall Back Down (Hellcat)

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Rancid’s new single is an uptempo stomper of a tune, although there is less emphasis on the “ska” make up that has served them so well previously on this occasion. A feelgood melody with equally feelgood lyrics (“If I fall back down, you’re gonna help me back up again”) make for a fairly entertaining release. No doubt this will become a live favourite and is unlikely to offend anyone who is not a fan. In fact, I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t like this more than I do, but there you go. 7/10

Tone E

 
 

 

The Infadels – Leave Your Body (Dead At Thirty Records)

A bit like the recent Timo Maas single “To Get Down” but with more synth driven Kraftwerk style production. Yes, I know I keep mentioning the German maestros, and honestly I DO have more references in the back of my mind than those I keep repeating, but such was the impact of our European cousins that it’s impossible NOT to suggest them as an influence. Me? Paranoid? Who told you that? Anyway, I think maybe if Tim Booth had decided to create an atmospheric dancefloor filler, it may have ended up sounding like this. 6/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Carina Round – Into My Blood (Disconnected)

Puts me in mind of Polly Harvey, Tanya Donnelly and Tori Amos enjoying a dirty lesbo threesome with several assorted…um…“toys”. Hmmm…I LIKE this song! Okay, depraved, pathetic male fantasies out of the way and we’re left with a gutsy, noisy offering that sounds rather like Polly Harvey, Tanya Donnelly and Tori…ahem…excuse me, I’m just off to the bathroom for a mo. 8/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Franz Ferdinand – Darts of Pleasure (Domino)

Talk about beginning your career with a bang, this single is streets ahead of most of its rivals. Gloriously punchy and in some ways amusingly camp, in a Dead Or Alive kind of way, this one stays with you right from the opening bars to the ludicrous German chantalong of “Ich heife super fantastic” and was well worthy of its place atop the MTV2 / NME chart recently. If you’re looking for other references, try David Byrne, Fatima Mansions, The Stranglers, and on “Van Tango”, Bowie. Put simply, this is an excellent first single by a band that looks destined for greatness. 10/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Engerica – Trick Or Treat (Wrath)

Hailing from Essex, apparently these boys aspired to “sound like the destruction of something beautiful” and hell, do they achieve it! On the strength of this single, I cannot wait to hear a full length album. Back in the old days, if I’d had a particularly frustrating day at work, with the missus or (most likely) watching my football team lose again, I would put the Pixies’ “Tame” straight on the record player and take all my angst out on the nearest cushion. I know, I know, it all sounded quite rock ‘n’ roll until I mentioned cushions, didn’t it? Anyway, all three tracks on this single have much the same effect and that kind of thing’s been missing from music for ages. Watch out Furnitureland, here I come. 9/10

Tone E

 
 

 

I Am Kloot – 3 Feet Tall (Echo)

You have to be in the right mood for this band. I like them most of the time, but then they’ll go and write a song that sounds like Crowded House. Like this one does. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with the former antipodean chart champs, but when you’ve spent the last ten minutes or so listening to music the quality ofthose last two singles I reviewed, then this pales in comparison. 7/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Chicks On Speed – We Don’t Play Guitars (Chicks On Speed Records)

Er…o…k…so you think that’s impresive do you? Didn’t anybody tell you that not playing guitars is a hangable offence in my book? Anyway, if you can bear to imagine this description, it sounds like Bow Wow Wow’s Annabella shouting hysterically about her musical shortcomings over a soundtrack by the Reynolds Girls (of “I’d Rather Jack” fame”). Not pleasant. 4/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Coma Girl (Hellcat/Epitaph)

Being a huge Clash fan, I was of course devastated to learn of the premature death of Jo Strummer at the tail end of last year. Hearing the spectacular music he was making shortly prior to his demise just makes the whole thing twice as big a blow. I know several people who believe that once an artist is over 35 he is over the hill. Well, Joe was 50 when he passed away and this outstanding single is testament to the fact that you do not need to be a spotty oik or crank your guitar up to top notch every time in order to be brilliant. Wonderful lyrics, a gorgeously pumping tune and a fine, fine single overall. May he rest in peace. 9/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Athlete – You Got the Style (Parlophone)

A re-erelease of the band’s summer hit and former Jo Whiley “Record of the Week”, no doubt they are hoping for a higher chart position this time around. I must admit, this appeals to me more now than it did back then, and, although I still can’t shake the idea that it sounds like David Essex, it does have a redeeming quality in its cheeky, cheery lyric and possesses an air of being completely carefree that is finally starting to instill in me the reason why this group seems to be so successful. It’s taken time guys, and you never know – if you release it again next year, I might just bung the score up one more notch. 7/10

Tone E

 
 

 

Dr Rubberfunk - Bossa for the Devil (GPS Recordings/Funkydown Productions)

Top drawer jazzy-latino funk! Fingered basslines give the track an immediate live feel. Female vocals that sound like they were lifted straight out of another era drift throughout, giving way to a funky, funky breakbeat. Very well put together and musically superb. It just feels right! Which is the best kind of right you can get.
Unfortunatley for me the B side featuring Mr Guder and the Quincy Sparks Sextet just doesnt match up. Shame! However this sampler is finished with a lush couple of bootleg tracks featuring Gangstar and De la Soul. These are great in everyway, great vocal stylings and quality breaks and scratching. Verry good!!

Forthcoming album sounds promising, literally! 8/10

Nic Caesar

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Muse – Time Is Running Out (Taste Media/East West)

Matt Bellamy and co went from being cult indie heroes to rock Gods with their transposition from “Showbiz” to “Origin of Symmetry”. It remains to be seen whether their forthcoming “Absolution” album will firmly cement the band as the most important thing to have happened to music in decades. This new single is a taster for that album.

T: And on the strength of the single, I think there may well be several monuments erected around the UK in honour of the trio’s incredible craftsmanship very soon indeed! I have been asking myself this question since I first heard this single some weeks ago: “Is this the greatest four minute pop single ever recorded?” – if that sounds a little far fetched then you obviously haven’t heard it. It’s an incredible romp through three minutes and fifty six seconds of rousing raw guitar laden glory, and sticksman Dominic Howard is at his pulsating best to create a high energy (not to be confused with that naff old genre of the eighties), emotive and tantalising track worthy of the accolade I have bestowed upon it. This is the work of pure genius, believe me. From Bellamy’s opening lament “I think I’m drowning, asphyxiated” through the swirling extravaganza that follows with such depth and beauty, right up to the final crescendo of the frontman’s falsetto warblings (The Darkness take note – this is how it SHOULD be done), this is the most dashboard slappingly brilliant song I have ever heard and blows the knackers off the rest of the lesser mortals who will be making up the rest of the chart. Anyway, I’m reviewing this single on my own on this occasion, as Nick is a little tied up elsewhere at present.

N: MMmph!! PfffMph!! Mmmph!!

T: So I am sure that he will have no qualms in my award of maximum points to this Devon three piece. Anyone who doesn’t like this single is seriously devoid of a heart, a brain and hey you can always audition for “The Wizard of Oz”!! 10/10

web site

 
 

 

Starsailor - Silence Is Easy (EMI)

Produced by the legendary producer Phil Spector around about the time of his arrest on suspicion of murder after an actress was found shot dead at his home, this single is the first release from the band's eagerly awaited second album.

N: This is a really great single, I have no hesitation in saying that. I think its recent airplay has propagated its seed. The music acts as a canvas to Walsh's vocals, and the two play together to great effect.

T: Not much to add really. I'd agree with you that it's a fine release, though I think I prefer their more heartache strewn angsty stuff to this kind of "sunny" feel. As a one-off though, it works. 8/10

web site

 
 

 

Iron Maiden - Wildest Dreams (EMI)

25 years plus and still rocking. Time to decide if the beast was worth waking or not...

T: This makes me want to get my mum to sew leather patches onto the knees of my jeans, and hang around arcades making friends with the dodgy looking guy who got the high score on Pac-man. As for the music, pick a Maiden song, I dunno, say "The Trooper" and you've pretty much got it. Metal with verse chorus verse chorus bridge complete with fast guitar lick chorus, and there you have it.

N: If it ain't broke don't fix it - that's most certainly the gospel according to Iron Maiden. Certainly not the calibre of songwriting compared to that of their heyday. By two thirds of the way through this, you realise they've trooped too far. That said, this is Dickinson and co doing what they do best. Only thing is, I can't exactly describe this one as a Bobby-dazzler. Sorry guys. 4/10

web site

 
 

 

Alfie - Stuntman (Regal)

It may come as a surprise to some that Alfie are on the verge of releasing their third album. It surprised me anyway. I thought they'd only done the one! Anyway, an interesting gambit on the accompanying press releae is that Alfie sound like The Kinks and Queen together if they had decided to make music like that of the latter day Pavement. Interesting concept, does it hold any water?

N: Can't see the direct comparison myself, maybe that the backing vocals do harmonise in a similar vein to that of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the music is of well structured guitar led pop, somehat similar to that of Ray Davies, but take it from me, if you like the music, leave it at that, and try not formulating your own musical family tree.

T: (lifts handbag) Oooh! Well I was going to say that maybe the quirky lyrics are like that of the Davies brothers but seeing as you sound as though you're going to make me write the words "I must not compare new artists with old ones" a billion times on the board whilst standing over me with a huge cane, I shan't bother. I will just mention that I like the line "I'm the human kangaroo, I'll jump for you" enormously. 6/10

 

 
 

 

After Suburbia - The Dare e.p. (After Suburbia)

You have to have respect for a band who financed their releases entirely by themselves and whose only previous releases were through Organ magazine and their own website.

T: An admirable ethic indeed, but sadly the music itself is somewhat lacking in appeal to me. They're an extremely tight outfit, but the end product does little to inspire me I'm afraid.

N: The Dare e.p...I wonder? No, not a floppy fringe in sight, of that I'm certain. As you say, self financed, and the ethic is there, but if not one of the best, certainly up there with the rest. They just have to make themselves stand out and inject a little more excitement into their presentation. 6/10

web site

 
 

 

Aslan - Crazy World (Plum Recordings)

Hugely successful in their native homeland of Dublin, Aslan hope to reproduce that popularity a little further South.

T: This is far too clean for my liking. Maybe a little over the top with the use of strings too.

N: This is all wrong. The song's a little too staid, and the p;roduction just doesn't work.

T: Well, never mind, I'm sure they'll remain popular at home. 4/10

web site

 
 

 

Skin - Faithfulness (EMI)

Her second single from the widely acclaimed "Fleshwounds" album.

T: If I sound a little uncomplimentary here, i apologise, but this track just bores me to be honest. There was a feeling of tense energy within Skunk Anansie that appealed, but the passion doesn't seem to be there in most of the girl's solo work.

N: The difference is that this is Skin's voice first and foremost, and not having to "compete" with anything else. Skunk Anansie were certainly edgier than this will ever be and you're right, does lose something in the process. I would say though, perhaps a more accessible single. 6/10

web site

 
 

 

Jetplane Landing - Calculate The Risk (Smalltown America)

One of the greatest bands to have graced our eardrums this millennium return with another storming single.

T: I have sneakily written out the incredible lyrics for your delectation in the hope that you might see fit to again award this band a ten out of ten score. It is another barnstorming single that is worthy of a glut of "Best Band" awards, but sadly that will probably never happen.

N: Thanks for that. This does certainly add to the presentation. Ferris is certainly a genius of words. Whether or not he'd blush and shanke his head at this remark...I presume so. But it does leave you wondering where his head was at when he wrote these lyrics. If this is a taster for the forthcoming album, I am full already! Which way to Weightwatchers? 10/10

web site

 
 

 

Fiery Furnaces - Crystal Clear (Anglo-Plugging)

Chicago's coldest new export release this, a "twisted bluesy gem" at the beginning of September.

T: I can instantly tell you what this reminds me of. The Housemartins standing around a piano getting drunk on Real Ale and singing random words to the equally inebbriated pianist.

N: In some ways, a Sgt.Pepper outtakes collection - songs that didn't even make it to tape were jammed before moving onto the serious business of recording possibly the greatest album of all time. No Ringo, we can't make it a double album.

T: Hugely likeable all the same. 8/10

 

 
 

 

Spiritualized - She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit) (Anglo Plugging)

The lead single from their forthcoming third album "Amazing Grace" will be be the third of three vinyl only releases of album tracks leading up to its release once we're well into September.

N: Spiritualized do tend to release songs like the song titles I come up with, but actually get round to writing the song and then recording it. In some ways a Primal Scream of a tune but this band are out on their own, something quite different.

T: I am a huge fan of Spiritualized, but I have to say, on first listen, I am a little disappointed in this as it just sounds so ORDINARY. I mean, yes I can see the Primal Scream reference you make, but the Primals' music is usually a lot less predictable, as is this band's normally. It just didn't go anywhere. Maybe I need a few more listens but right now, I'm sorry, it's just not that great.

N: No, you're right with what you say. This is a far more run-of-the-mill rock tune. No mind altered states, Spiritualized have produced far worthier work. 6/10

 
 

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