Lushlife (Beggars Banquet)
So more post-ish rock meanderings from Bowery, then. Their third album, and while the debut and its follow-up concentrated more on guitar loops, this one is much more cinematic, with (gasp) vocals and dance beats and stuff. And very good and pleasant it is too. Ditch the Godspeed and get this, it’s much much better.
The Complete Radio One Sessions (Strange Fruit/BBC Music)
Undoubtedly the most insane music ever recorded at the BBC Studios. Encompassing three Peel Sessions, and one done for BBC's Friday Rock Show, you get Napalm Death in all of their fury--shutting, once and for all, the mouths of those who passed the band off as a 'novelty act' who couldn't do the same song twice. Ranging from 1987 1996, these sessions are recorded with bassist Shane Embury being the sole constant, yet there is a continuity of approach, and a seamless air to the whole thing, that sounds like anything but a band covering their own songs. With a tolerance-testing thirty-seven tracks, this will make your neighbors wonder what's going on. Inspiring. (Jason Thornberry)
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
How the hell do you summarise and pigeon hole this album in less than about 600 words? Try this: loud intellectual Americans make punk rock album to die for. Jump about, around, wherever.
The Beta Band (Astralworks)
What the Beta Band(pronounced "Beeta" on one song) lack in the boy-band's choreographed, carefully air-brushed looks that are a must in today's climate (I promise NSTYNK will be salting French fries in the Midwest in three years time), they make up for in ingenuity. Whether it's mimicking the King en masse on "the Beta Band Rap", or sampling the theme from "the Black Hole" on "It's Not Too Beautiful", the Beta's know how to make something stick in your head. Whether it's a mumbled phrase, or a distorted percussion loop, like on "Simple Boy", you step away from your stereo with a cranium full off ideas, and your neighbors will beg you after awhile to please put something else on. Anything. A logical progression from last year's collection of their first three ep's that found it's way onto the film "High Fidelity". Scotland's answer to Pavement. Pavement were this out-there once too. (Jason Thornberry)
Hot Rail (City Slang)
If you read backwards, you’ll already know about Calexico as they featured at the City Slang 10th birthday party, complete with Mariachi band. So: imagine Swindon, about 1875. Lee van Cleef is sitting outside the Railway Village, sucking on a huge cigar and waiting for trouble. Over the other side of town, Charles Bronson, totally bedecked in black leather, is pacing down Victoria Street wondering if he should get a posse together. And out in Stratton, John Wayne has just hung out a horse thief. And if all that were true, this would be the soundtrack. It matters not that it’s August, it’s raining outside and the prospect of decent weather this summer is about as likely as Swindon Town beating Reading this season. Put this on, and there’s a cactus outside your front door, women of dubious persuasion habituate your local, where you can get a bottle of whiskey for three dollars, and to get anywhere you have to pull on your dusty black boots and kick your horse.
Sampler (Alphabet Business Concern) A decent starting-point for Americans into quirky English bands who languish in obscurity. At home they released eleven studio albums, opened for Blur, and suffered an inexplicable British 'media blackout'. In the United States, if you've heard about them, you'd be lucky to stumble across this "Sampler" like I did. Ranging from their late 70's origins to the double "Sing to God" CD they brought out in 1996, this CD boasts thirteen glimpses into the world of major-domo Tim Smith and band, which includes live bits and tracks by side-projects the Sea Nymphs, and Oceanland World. Someone please go to cardiacs.com, and buy all of their albums. Shouldn't Ricky Martin trade places with these geniuses? As a whole the entire CD stands out, with their earlier work containing a more prog-core vibe than more straight-forward-yet-still-weird songs like standout "Is This The Life". Fantastic. (Jason Thornberry) www: www.cardiacs.com
Wasp Star:Apple Venus Volume 2 (TVT)
It would be easy for me just to blow this one off as 'XTC Chapter 902'. To those who already love the band, it's unfair to them to suggest that they know exactly what they're getting when they pop the sequel to last year's "Apple Venus" into their stereo: Quirky, very English ('painfully so', it's been remarked), pastoral pop delivered by the two chaps who brought you "Senses Working Overtime". Since their 1978 debut "White Music", and even through their detour as "The Dukes of Stratosphear", and their experiments thereon with psychedelic rock, "Dear God" and "Senses." are the closest they've gotten to making their peculiar brand of pop, uh, popular. In today's climate, "Wasp Star" seems even more likely to have an uphill swim ahead of it. Standout track: "My Brown Guitar". My prediction is that, unfortunately, this won't do a whole lot better than "Apple Venus Volume One". They just don't have the right choreographer. Or make-up man. Or gargoyle tattoos. Who really wants to see those guys bare stomachs anyways? (Jason Thornberry) (note from Mavis: this apparently has a song on it about how little there is to do in Swindon. My, how we’ve all been there, right?)
Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard
Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (Recordhead/Rockathon)
Album number 8,000 for Robert Pollard, the leader of Guided by Voices. This time, he's helping to flesh out Doug Gillard's tunes. Doug used to play with Cleveland, Ohio's Cobra Verde, but was the only one to stay with Pollard after their temporary metamorphosis into Guided by Voices. Doug plays all of the instruments on this album, and Pollard adds the vocals. With all of the playing itself recorded on 4-track, this retains the grittiness of the "old days" (meaning three years ago, which is a long time when you're talking about GBV). Co-issued on band "manager for life" Pete Jamison's Rockathon Records, this is called "Number Four in the Fading Captain Series". Is GBV trying to break some record, and become the 'most prolific recording artist ever'? I think Merzbow, and his new-cd-each-week style is winning for now, but Robert Pollard is the better in terms of overall quality. (Jason Thornberry)
In Session (BBC/Fuel 2000)
Dinosaur Jr were once one of my favorite bands, and 1987's "You're Living All Over Me" is by far one of my top albums of all time. I just eventually lost interest when drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow left J Mascis to go it alone. Granted J is an excellent musician (evidenced by his drumming with Gobblehoof), but I always felt this was the 'classic line-up', and they prove it on the majority of these songs. Volume is just a large ingredient (they're still the loudest band I've ever seen live) to their sound. On these sessions for the BBC you find that J, Murph, and Lou always had an ear for sharp hooks, and borrowed somewhat from one-time label-mates Sonic Youth. They just stripped the songs down a bit. Yeah, it's missing the witty interview bits that made the Who/Small Faces BBC sessions so enjoyable, but J Mascis become famous by being quote-worthy. I'm shocked that I saw this "Used" at a record shop the other day. (Jason Thornberry)
The Best Of Endiche Vis.Sat (self-released)
Lithuania. It’s not a country with a huge rock and roll pedigree. I mean, only comparatively recently released from the overpowering control of Soviet Russia, where the best thing you could buy was either a potato or a vinyl copy of Bon Jovi’s New Jersey LP. So they’ve got a lot to catch up on. Ramunas Jaras, the guy behind this, has been known to play six hour long gigs. And, more remarkably, people have been known to stay to they end of them. Not that this is bad in any way, it’s just a six hour gig must be a marathon for all concerned: just look at how peeved Mavis got at the Ochre thing reviewed last issue. So this is Ramunas’s best of, a kind of mixture of ambient do-das and accordion stompers. In many ways it defies explanation, in that you know Ramunas doesn’t always take himself seriously but still manages to keep a metaphorical straight face through all of this. Technically very accomplished, but unsettling to say the least in parts. Shows its roots, too. Make of that what you will. e—firstname.lastname@example.org www—http://endiche.i.am/ www—www.mp3.com/endiche/
The Noise Made By People (Warp)
Mavis in reviews something English shocker! Now, usually, Broadcast have been reliable enough to produce quality drone material suitable for lazy days off your head. And with beautiful packaging, the whole thing made sense. Well, this time, on their first album proper, they go the whole hog and give us songs. Proper songs, mind, not the odd droney weird things on that Bowery Electric CD. It still drones, mind you, but only in a pleasant way. It doesn’t get in the way too much, and even on jazzier moments like Unchanging Window remains focussed. In fact, listening to Unchanging Window right now, it’s a perfect summer 60s track, the sort of thing that accompanies TV clips documentaries of hippies counterpointed by mushroom clouds—soft centre, dark underbelly. Yum.
Queens Of The Stone Age
This has got an enormous amount of attention in the mainstream press. Indeed, the week of writing this review the band appeared on the cover of NME. And, for once, the journos have got it right. This, apparently, falls under the aegis of Stoner Rock, a genre which justifies its existence via allegiances to Kyuss, and presumably The Grateful Dead and Phish if you extend the analogy. Fortunately, it’s nothing like it. It’s loud, bratty and obnoxious, and kicks off with a song whose entire lyrics amount to “nicotine, valium, mogadon(?), marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”, which as a statement of intent doesn’t get much clearer. Yet while it might be a foregone conclusion that a stoner rock band is going to have endless Santana-esque noodlings before disappearing off to the 24 hour garage for a cornish pasty, this one has rock and roll seeping through its pores. Oh, and tunes, too. And kids, the hits just keep on coming, and if you’re not humming every single bar of this by Christmas, then The Man has won and we may as well burn our entire record collections and go worship at the shrine of Saint Britney of Hawaii and Saint Robbie of Port Vale.
Yo La Tengo
And then nothing turned itself inside-out (Matador)
The CD has a lot to answer for. Previously, albums were an hour long tops, as that was all you could fit on a good old-fashioned LP, unless you were Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or Yes, in which case you managed to fit your vision onto two records, much to the derision of just about everyone. Double LPs were unwieldy brutes, in gatefold sleeves decorated usually by stupid artists who thought Bilbo Baggins was the highlight of human endeavour. But once the CD appeared things started to change, albeit very slowly. Suddenly bands found themselves with nearly 75 minutes to play around with for one album. Suddenly, everything crept up to double length. First stop, that Dire Straits compilation, slowly gaining steam towards that Elton John tribute album and finally taking ludicrous form in Guns And Roses’s Use Your Illusion, an album so bloated and self-indulgent it ran to two CDs. That’s FOUR LPs, folks. Anyway, the point is that long albums are far too common nowadays, and when you’ve got hundreds of CDs to listen to, who wants to sit through more than about 50 minutes while someone makes their musical point? It’s seldom that a double album (like this one), even a superb one, has much more than about an hour’s decent stuff, with the rest being filler. Frankly, even OK Computer had its boring bits (I’m looking at you, Mr Drummer who thinks a cowbell sounds cool but which in fact is more reminiscent of the dodgier bits of Use Your Illusion). But stop ranting Mavis, and talk about the album. Well, apart from being too long, it’s a fairly bog standard Yo La Tengo release. Not their best, not their worst. Even the first track is over six minutes. The longest is pushing eighteen. And my concentration span is notoriously limited. So it’s OK, but we’ve never made it all the way through from start to finish. Which is why the seven inch single should be the dominant format.
Super Furry Animals
Mwng (Placid Casual)
There’s something about albums in foreign languages. Unless you have a good grasp of said language, for all you know your favourite chanteur/chanteuse could be singing a paean to dormice. Take that album Celine Dion did in French. I bet there’s at least one song on there that pays tribute to the marrow. Now in the beginning SFA did everything exclusively in Welsh, which, coming at the time Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki also started to emerge, made perfect sense. Indeed, SFA were tied into the whole Gorky’s Zeitgeist, their fantastic (deep breath) Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (in space) EP being the perfect mix of pastoral Welshness and mad techno bits. So it comes as no real surprise that after several albums of English language tomfoolery (the brilliant Guerrilla included) SFA have gone back to their roots and recorded something in Welsh. Now it’s quite obvious that very few people bar, clearly, Welsh speakers and the odd Patagonian farmer have no idea what’s going on here. Or, likewise, that closer Gwreiddiau Dwfn has a trumpet part nicked straight off the melody line of Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree. What’s important is that it’s not quite as pastoral as you might have thought, isn’t particularly mad either and has some pretty damn good tunes. And that’s about it.
The Covers Record (Matador)
Wow, imaginative title Chan. Wonder what’s on it? Actually, these aren’t covers, so much as total reworkings. Chan Marshall, the girl with the amazing yet fragile voice who gets so embarrassed at shows, has not so much taken these tunes and done her own version, as take the lyrics and redo the entire tune. Of course, Bob Dylan does this to his own material all the time, but this is different. For a start, it has the same smoky ambience that Mark Lanegan has (and indeed, his covers album—reviewed in Dream Two—is not that much different in atmosphere to this) and is perfect for playing late at night. In fact, late at night is pretty much the only time to play it, as if you were to put it on during the day you wouldn’t get it. Daytime is the time for loud stuff. This is the type of thing you can only play after, preferably, midnight. Who cares if Chan’s version of the Stones’s Satisfaction is totally unrecognisable? Likewise her version of I Found A Reason? This is great midnight stuff, and if you’re staying up, you need this. If, on the other hand, you’re still of the type that likes to retire on the same day you got up on, go and listen to some Guitar Wolf.
The Sophtware Slump (V2)
Not gonna spend much time on this, seeing its wonderfulness has been spread all over the inkies and glossies over the last few months. But if you did retro electronica (retro, as in odd noises made by Moogs last heard somewhere in the mid-70s) and tunes that will melt your heart, get this. Like QOTSA, with any justice this should be high on your “damn, can’t get this bloody song out of my head” list about three hours after buying. Ace.