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Reviews Written by
Kevin Clarke "kevin17566" (Birmingham UK)
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Sweet Dreams...
Sweet Dreams...
Offered by robert_reynolds6
Price: £2.89

4.0 out of 5 stars .......are made of this, 13 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Sweet Dreams... (Audio CD)
Produced by Robin Proper-Sheppard, whose own band, Sophia, made a record in a very similar vein called 'People Are Like Seasons', 'Sweet Dreams' is a seriously stylish slice of jazz-noir that will delight fans of Tindersticks, Cousteau and The Walkabouts.

A quick glance at the number of musicians on each track might raise fears of the songs being rather overwrought. Fear not, each one is beautifully arranged and recorded, rich in unusual, sensuous sounds - a vibraphone here, a harpsichord there......Neil Henderson has a commanding vocal presence, weaving his delicious tales of desirable women called Justine, Marie, Edna, Eleanor......"Drama queen/My Justine/Just sixteen."

The music swirls elegantly around him, maintaining tension and atmosphere throughout, and Pauline Cuff offers some added vocal colour and contrast on some of the tracks too.

The lyrics deal with heartbreak, revenge, wrecked lives - all the things we like from our dolorous troubadours. Particuarly strong are 'Hold Back The Tears', 'Eleanor' and 'Shark Attack'. But really, anyone else listening to this album could name 3 other tracks they prefer.

A dark November morning, curled up snug under the covers, rain lashing on the pane. Put on 'Sweet Dreams' and lose yourself in its wistful, brooding moods.


A Weekend in the City
A Weekend in the City
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £1.75

5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Writer's Bloc, 28 May 2007
This review is from: A Weekend in the City (Audio CD)
I like the IDEA of Bloc Party. An indie band fronted by an articulate, sexy black man.....so far, so interesting. And 'Silent Alarm' was chock-full of punchy little post-punk numbers - derivative, but well-executed. So what on earth has gone wrong on 'A Weekend In The City?'

Kele Okereke says it's an album about being young and angry at the start of the 21st century. But does it have to wear its studenty earnestness like a greatcoat from Oxfam? And do we need another rich rock star telling us that "Drugs are bad, OK kids?" Or a rock'n'roll song with the word 'accountability' in it?

Even the most accessible song, 'I Still Remember', about a stolen afternoon of schoolboy love, is let down by the revelation that the action took place on a "teachers' training day" - no 'bunking off' for these boys!

'Uniform' features some risible 'social observations' that are so trite they'd make a 14 year old blush with embarrassment. Listen to The Jam or The Specials or Billy Bragg to hear how much better this sort of stuff can be done.

It's not all bad. The aforementioned 'I Still Remember' is a delight - a beautiful melody allied to a genuinely touching lyric, and 'Hunting For Witches', 'Waiting For The 7.18' and 'The Prayer' rise above the general mediocrity. The album is hampered though by the state-of-the-art production which flattens everything out and drains the songs of instrumental colour.

Full marks to the band for trying to make an ultra-modern, political rock record. Next time, remember to include some tunes eh lads?


Closer
Closer
Price: £5.41

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This is the way, step inside.............", 19 May 2007
This review is from: Closer (Audio CD)
Joy Divison's best album opens with 'Atrocity Exhibition', which is damned uncomfortable listening wherever you sit. Brusque, rolling drums and shards of strangulated guitar punctuate Ian Curtis's grim scenario of degradation - "For entertainment they watch his body twitch/ Behind his eyes he says 'I still exist'"

Next up is 'Isolation', built around a futuristic metal dance beat, this is the track that most anticipates the direction New Order would take after Curtis's death. As it spirals to a close, we find the first of the album's introspective explorations of self, 'Passover' - "This is a crisis I knew had to come/ Destroying the balance I'd kept." 'Colony' is not in this class, its fractured, staccato beat making it an arduous listen.

'Means To An End' is a different matter. With its stomping drum beat and descending bassline, it's almost catchy. Catchy, that is, until Curtis's accusatory tone of voice chills you to the bone - "I put my trust in you" he declares, leaving no doubt that that trust has been betrayed.

'Heart And Soul' is underpinned by clipped, brisk drumming and a subdued, repetitive bassline. Silvery synthesisers wash in and out of the mix, and the heavy echo on the vocals compounds the sense of eerie dislocation.

'Twenty Four Hours' is 'Closer's centrepiece, its most poignant, anguished moment. The song features a beautifully melodic Peter Hook bassline and the song is superbly structured, alternating between aggressive highs and quieter lows. "A cloud hangs over me, marks every move/Deep in the memory of what once was love" laments Curtis, utterly alone in his despair.

'The Eternal' is a funereal dirge with mournful piano playing and a snails-paced bass. Some critics think this is the best song on the album: I find it just TOO grim and verging on self-parody.

The album concludes with 'Decades', second only to 'Twenty Four Hours' in my opinion. Listening to the lyrics, I always imagined Ian Curtis was writing from the point of view of some scarred, shellshocked, First World War survivors - "Watch from the wings as the scenes were replaying/ We saw ourselves now as we never had seen." The song ends majestically, gathering pace before fading out with crashing cymbals and a haunting synth refrain.

Shame, guilt, despair, loneliness, betrayal. Joy Divison didn't shy away from difficult subjects. Perhaps their ultimate 'crime' was to take their music utterly seriously. But now, 27 years after its release, in our jaded, cynical, postmodern times, we can appreciate 'Closer' for its stark, unalloyed beauty.


Pink Opaque
Pink Opaque

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing stuff, 7 May 2007
This review is from: Pink Opaque (Audio CD)
A real hotchpotch of a compilation, aimed at the US market, 'The Pink Opaque' nonetheless contains some of the key tracks in the Cocteaus' canon.

Completists will want it for 'Millimillenary', only otherwise available on an NME tape released in 1984. The album kicks off with 'The Spangle Maker' with its menacing bassline, thumping drums and distant, howling guitars - what an opener! The final minute of the song explodes in a wondrous avalanche of sound.

'Wax And Wane' has a more conventional, post-punk sound, clearly influenced by Siouxsie. It's still ace, mind. 'Hitherto' is also superb - a pounding stomper with Liz Frazer really belting out the vocal at full throttle.

'Pearly Dewdrops' Drops' was a minor hit in 1984. It's a heartstopping song, beautiful and translucent. 'From The Flagstones' (one of John Peel's favourites) features blissful swashes of sound and, rarely, real, discernible words throughout.

As magnificent as those two songs are though, they are eclipsed by 'Aikea-Guinea'. This song offers perhaps the purest distillation of the Cocteaus' magical essence. If you don't own it already, hunt down the 12" single version. The production is amazing: the song LEAPS from the speakers like nothing else recorded in the '80s.

'Lorelei' is a choice pick from the album 'Treasure', but just when you think things are petering out slightly with the so-so 'Pepper Tree', in crashes the mighty 'Musette And Drums.' I swear this song makes me SWEAT. At the end, the guitars sound like they're crying.

Later on in their career I thought the Cocteaus' music became too twittery and amorphous. 'The Pink Opaque' captures them perfectly in their imperial period.


The Great Rocker
The Great Rocker
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Rock, Bluecaps, Rock!!", 30 April 2007
This review is from: The Great Rocker (Audio CD)
Greasy-haired, leather-clad, and trailing his gammy leg from a motorbike accident behind him, Gene Vincent cut as threatening a figure as Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard in conservative, mid-'50s America. A lack of variety and a dearth of truly outstanding tunes keeps him from the upper ranks of the original rock'n'rollers but he's definitely heading up the second-tier.

These fresh, uncluttered songs still sound wildly exciting 50 years after they were recorded. One good compilation is all you need for Vincent as the basic template of his songs didn't vary much - a daft title, vocals heavy on the echo, leaping percussion and frantic guitar licks prefaced by Gene hollering "Rock, Bluecaps, Rock!!" or some such exhortation.

Ironically, his best-known song, 'Be-Bop-A-Lula', doesn't stick to this formula: its slow pulsing throb being more akin to something like 'Heartbreak Hotel' than any of the raucous rockers elsewhere on this collection. Another slightly different song is 'Say Mama', a more rhythmic, driving tune and the only song here to feature saxophone.

'Who Slapped John?', 'Race With The Devil', 'Crazy Legs', 'Double Talkin' Baby' and 'Bluejean Bop' are all so infectious they ought to be quarantined.

Tired of the din and bombast of most contemporary rock music? Then do like John Peel used to do when he wanted to "flush everything away and start again" and tune in to Gene Vincent.


Drums And Guns
Drums And Guns
Price: £8.83

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Someone to do your dirty work..........", 12 April 2007
This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
Low have been on a run of brilliant albums since 2001's 'Things We Lost In The Fire', culminating in their stunning set from 2005, 'The Great Destroyer.' 'Drums And Guns' is clearly a conscious attempt to move away from both the beautiful atmospherics of the former and the all-out aural assault of the latter.

The first thing that shocks is the brevity of the songs. Hardly anything exceeds four minutes and this from a band known for the long, langorous unfurling of tracks. The second surprise is the lack of guitars. Drum machines, handclaps, distorted electronic noise, piano, organ.......these are the sounds of the new Low.

The familiar elliptical, opaque lyrics are still in place, although song titles like 'Sandinista', 'Belarus' and 'Murderer' hint at a political agenda. Earnest hectoring, or easy explanation, is not the band's style but in its own quiet way 'Drums And Guns' is as pertinent a reflection of the uncertain, unsettling times we live in as the latest Arcade Fire album.

It's also one of those rare records that gets better towards the end, with the last 4 songs being especially good. 'Take Your Time' floats in on eerie, synthesised voices, piano and chimes, before giving way to 'In Silence' with its pounding, ominous drumming.

'Murderer' is my favourite track. It has a quavering guitar line and some beautiful backing harmonies by Mimi Parker. The line "You might need a murderer/ Someone to do your dirty work" is perversely moving.

Earlier on, there's even a rare shaft of mordant wit in the lines of 'Hatchet' - "You be my Charlie and I can be your George/ Let's bury the hatchet like The Beatles and The Stones." 'Sandinista" has a highly effective, military marching drumbeat and 'Dragonfly', with its lyrics talking of the futility of taking anti-depressants, is particularly resonant in the light of Adam Sparhawk's rumoured breakdown.

One or two of the songs drift by without grabbing the attention and after half an hour I longed for the bracing aggression of a track like 'Monkey' or 'Everybody's Song' off 'The Great Destroyer.' No matter. 'Drums And Guns' is another fine record from a band whose purity and vision make many of their contemporaries sound vain and bombastic.


The Jazz Age
The Jazz Age
Price: £20.50

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious? Moi?, 18 Feb. 2007
This review is from: The Jazz Age (Audio CD)
I've always had a soft spot for bands who recommend 'further reading' in their sleevenotes - apart from The Manic Street Preachers, of course. Compatriots of those blustering blowhards, Jack are REAL bohemians and if you find them a little pretentious - well, off you go with your Keane albums and Celebrity Big Brother DVDs then.

Influenced as much by film and literature as music, Jack's songs reference Warhol, Nabokov, Bukowski, Cocteau, Fellini......But all this would be so much studenty name-dropping were it not backed up by their vivid lyricism and the powerful, chamber-rock sound of the music. Anthony Reynolds has also got a beautiful, richly-timbered voice: he needs it for this kind of conceit to work.

Rented rooms, afternoon drinking, recreational drugs, waiting in the housing benefit queue.....ah, the travails of the working-class intellectual - can't you see I'm trying to live a life of squalid glamour here?

With its dramatic, orhestral introduction and lovelorn, drink-addled narrator, '3 O'Clock In The Morning' is the perfect opener - "There's this all night garage and 7-11/ If you're pissed in the morning, it's like some kind of route to heaven...".

'Saturday's Plan' is a defiant "us against them" lovers' tale a la The Smiths 'Hand In Glove', 'Lolita Elle' is simply gorgeous - "love like ours is as doomed and stained as snow." 'Nico's Children' builds slowly up into an abrasive crescendo and 'Half-Cut, Wholly Yours' rounds things off in suitably sozzled fashion.

Less arch than The Divine Comedy, more authentic than Tindersticks, this album demands to be better known. Spread the word.


Faith
Faith
Price: £4.99

7 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misery turned up to 11, 16 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Faith (Audio CD)
Oh the agony of that acne, those 'A' levels! 'Faith' is an album that's hard to take seriously once you've left further education, comprising, as it does, eight routine slabs of doom. It's an album you want to shout at, like an exasperated parent to a truculent teen, "Oh for goodness' sake just GROW UP!!"

The moody, seductive, twilight feel of 'Seventeen Seconds' has given way to all-out despair; misery turned up to 11. 'Faith' is clearly indebted to Joy Division's masterpiece, 'Closer', released the previous year, but in place of Ian Curtis's rigorous explorations of self we have Robert Smith's hollow metaphysics and sixth-form doggerel, striving for profundity but not standing up to close inspection.

A couple of tracks partly redeem it. 'Primary' at least has some vim and energy, plus a half-decent lyric, and 'All Cats Are Grey' is genuinely atmospheric and less portentous than 'The Holy Hour' or the title track.

The Cure would come good again, most notably with 'The Head On The Door' and 'Disintegration'. The former embraced glorious, technicolour pop while the latter's sumptuous angst felt rooted in some real-life love and hurt.

'Faith', though, is a ponderous and pimply listen. One for the 'pretentious French novel' period of your life.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2015 7:19 PM GMT


Heartworm
Heartworm
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.57

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, unflinching brilliance, 15 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Heartworm (Audio CD)
Mmm, I'd be willing to wager that Snow Patrol own a copy of this album. If you want to know where they nicked their powerful, keening guitar sounds on 'Final Straw', listen to 'Twinkle' 'Fiction' or 'Users' off this record. But where the Patrol err towards the soppy and sentimental in their lyrics, Whipping Boy write about weak men and feckless women, in thrall to their destructive urges.

Sex rears its ugly headboard im many of these songs, only occasionally as a healer, often as a destroyer. "No more songs for swinging lovers" as Fergal McKhee sings bitterly on 'Fiction'.

Regret and the passing of time is nailed ruthlessly in 'When We Were Young' - "When we were young nobody knew/ Who you were or what you do/ Nobody had a past that catches up on you."

'We Don't Need Nobody Else' caused controversy on its release as a single due to its first-person confessions of a wife-beater - "I hit you for the first time today/ I didn't mean it, it just happened/ You wouldn't let me go to the phone, you wanted to make love and I did not...."

Mckhee isn't afraid to set himself up as a despicable individual in many of these songs - "I have used so many people for no reason and no gain."

With its raw subject matter and strident, chiming guitars 'Heartworm' stood uneasily alongside the lairiness of Britpop. But now, 12 years later, it's wearing considerably better than a lot of music from that period.

Brutal and unflinching in its depictions of love gone wrong, 'Heartworm' wriggles its way into that most vital of organs and stays there.


Discover a Lovelier You
Discover a Lovelier You
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More understated excellence, 15 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Discover a Lovelier You (Audio CD)
If financial reward were distributed fairly for songwriting talent, then Sting would be a penniless hobo and Joe Pernice would be lounging by the pool of his LA mansion having Haagen-Daas licked off his nether regions by willing supermodels. As it is, he probably lives with his childhood sweetheart in a modest, two-up two-down in his home town.

This man is a brilliant songwriter and yet I've seen his band play to fewer than 100 people on a couple of occasions now.

Whilst not quite being the best of his output (I think 'Yours, Mine and Ours' holds that distinction), 'Discover A Lovelier You' nevertheless is a worthy addition to his impressive body of work. OK, he could never be accused of being 'cutting edge' but such complaints seem churlish in the face of such understated excellence.

Recorded partly in LA, that city's laid-back, sunny vibe has contributed to making this the brightest and most upbeat of The Pernice Brothers' albums.

Dripping with delicious melodies and perceptive vignettes of small-town life, the band's comparative lack of success can perhaps be attributed to the corrosive effects of the moronic culture they see around them in 'Dumb It Down' - "Dumb it down cos I'm terrified/ Dumb it down, I'm anaesthetised/ Dumb it down for an easy fit/ Dumb it down cos I'm used to it."


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