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D. Newton (Swindon, Wilts)
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In the Spanish Cave [VINYL]
In the Spanish Cave [VINYL]

4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed But Good, 14 April 2008
`In the Spanish Cave' offers more of a mixed bag than other Thin White Rope records. On one hand there are lighter, more commercial-rock sounding tracks like ` Timing' and `Ring' and on the other squally guitar-fests like `Munich Eunuch' and `Elsie Crashed the Party'

On `It's OK', the band's trademark howling guitars are channelled to good effect whilst `Ahr-Skidar' is a curiously spare piece. The highlight of the record, though, is arguable the band's finest moment, `Red Sun'. This is a brilliantly confident indie-rock song with a wonderful extended intro, embellished with horns. This song should have been massive for the band.

Along with the mixture of styles, the quality of the songs is a little inconsistent. `Munich..' and `Elsie...' stomp along without really going anywhere but on the whole this is a good record.


In the Spanish Cave
In the Spanish Cave
Offered by digitalmediadistribution
Price: £24.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed But Good, 14 April 2008
This review is from: In the Spanish Cave (Audio CD)
`In the Spanish Cave' offers more of a mixed bag than other Thin White Rope records. On one hand there are lighter, more commercial-rock sounding tracks like ` Timing' and `Ring' and on the other squally guitar-fests like `Munich Eunuch' and `Elsie Crashed the Party'

On `It's OK', the band's trademark howling guitars are channelled to good effect whilst `Ahr-Skidar' is a curiously spare piece. The highlight of the record, though, is arguable the band's finest moment, `Red Sun'. This is a brilliantly confident indie-rock song with a wonderful extended intro, embellished with horns. This song should have been massive for the band.

Along with the mixture of styles, the quality of the songs is a little inconsistent. `Munich..' and `Elsie...' stomp along without really going anywhere but on the whole this is a good record.


Ben 10 - 15cm Action Figures - Upgrade
Ben 10 - 15cm Action Figures - Upgrade

3.0 out of 5 stars Super-Stretch arms?, 13 April 2008
= Durability:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Be warned - the arms on this figure stretch on a length of internal rubber\elastic which is not that strong. One arm was broken by my son within minutes of hm playing with it and he was not being too rough (fortunately he was persuaded that his Upgrade now had a special shooting hand!). Otherwise the toy is pretty good, the head lights up brightly and it is a good size. I would recommend the smaller 10cm figure over this though, I think it is better value for money.


Ben 10 - 10cm Battle Figure -  Fourarms
Ben 10 - 10cm Battle Figure - Fourarms

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Value for Money, 13 April 2008
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
My Ben 10-mad son was able to buy this figure with his pocket money, it was cheap enough. For your money you get a well-made, poseable Fourarms figure complete with a stand, alien DNA card and a plastic rock for him to smash! These 10cm figures seem to be the best value for money in the Ben 10 range. Recommended.


Ruby Sea
Ruby Sea
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £6.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Lost Classic of American Rock, 7 April 2008
This review is from: Ruby Sea (Audio CD)
`The Ruby Sea', Thin White Rope's final album, shows that this band split at the height of their powers. This is their most accomplished and carefully crafted set of songs. The raw Desert Rock power of earlier records, guitars played at the edge of distortion, is refined here to give a cleaner sound and show the band as masters of their art.

The record has a world-weary, slightly melancholic air. Songs like `Hunters Moon' and `Puppet Dog' build up tension and drama gradually through guitar riffs and insistent drumming but in a controlled way. Guy Kyser's vocals are strong and powerful throughout, conveying his tales of regret, failure and small-town weirdness with powerful emotion.

The record is richly varied: `Christmas Skies' and `Bartender's Rag' are nearly straight-up country in their sound, the latter's amusingly self-critical lyric of alcohol dependency being particularly well-served by this style. But there is great power too, `The Fish Song' is a real hair-raising rock monster with a terrific lyric about `the one that got away' - a reference to the band's lack of commercial success perhaps? There is even room for a delicate duet with a female vocalist on the lovely `Up to Midnight'

`The Ruby Sea' really is the complete American rock album - music of great compositional acumen; emotional, powerful and varied. Don't let this neglected jewel pass you by.


Accelerate (digipack)
Accelerate (digipack)
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £3.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music Made for Fun And It's Sheer Class, 6 April 2008
This review is from: Accelerate (digipack) (Audio CD)
REM's stellar back catalogue accumulated over nearly 30 years must mean that they can afford to ignore their critics, but the new album `Accelerate' is such a different beast to its tepidly-received predecessor `Around the Sun' that one could conclude that the band feel they have a point to prove.

Eleven tracks totalling under 35 minutes is a remarkably brief record and it crackles with energy from the word go. The opener, `Living Well is the Best Revenge', is a speed of sound head-rush, Stipe virtually shouting the vocals in his urgency to get the lyrics out. `Man-Sized Wreath' follows and it is a tremendously enjoyable dance floor filler, with funky guitar shapes reminiscent of `Monster's' `What's the Frequency Kenneth'. `Supernatural Superserious' is a great riffing guitar monster with a fantastically catchy chorus.

If you hadn't already gathered, `Accelerate' is a straight-up rock record with Peter Buck's guitar more to the fore than on any album since `Monster', but it has a fresher, more carefree sound than that LP.. Its short length works totally to its advantage because a record like this cannot afford any duff moments. `Houston' and `Horse to Water', the latter a real throwback to college-rock thrash of the mid 80s, clock in at barely over two minutes. There is variety and atmosphere as well, though. The title track carries a real air of panic its it lyric whilst `Until the Day is Done' is a beautiful, semi-acoustic lament to the state of the world and is surely destined to be an all-time REM classic.

`Accelerate' is sure to be loved by REM fans because the band once more sounds like they are making music for the sheer love of it. This could be the debut album by some hot new group, it sounds that fresh, but the beauty of it is that with REM's vast experience and accomplished musicianship and lyricism in the mix it carries air of real quality as well. A really great album and so enjoyable.


One That Got Away
One That Got Away
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reel This One In, 3 April 2008
This review is from: One That Got Away (Audio CD)
Was any album more fittingly named? Fans of Thin White Rope will recognise `The One That Got Away' as a line from the mighty `Fish Song' but the title of this double live album, recorded at one of the band's final shows, sums up their career very succinctly. Thin White Rope's brand of Desert Rock, with its howling pseudo-country guitar lines and Guy Kyser's gravelly vocals was always out of step with the fashion of the late 80s and early 90s - shame they were not around for the alt.country movement a few years' later.

As for the record itself, it is a great live album which is a rarity in itself in my opinion. The track selection is like an unofficial `best of', from the finest moments from the debut `Exploring the Axis' (`Down in the Desert' and `Disney Girl) through to a great selection from the band's last and best album `The Ruby Sea'. The guitar work is thrilling throughout but the best moments are where the band really cuts loose and bends familiar songs into wonderful new shapes, such as on `Take It Home' and the faintly terrifying `Fish Song'.

The sound quality is a bit patchy in places but I suppose that is to be expected. Fine American rock for connoisseurs and not to be thrown back.


Red Apple Falls
Red Apple Falls

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly Brilliant, 19 Feb 2008
This review is from: Red Apple Falls (Audio CD)
Smog's `Red Apple Falls' is arguably alt-country in the truest sense of the definition; traditional country instruments such as pedal steel guitar, Hammond and piano are employed with Bill Callahan's unconventional musical vision to create something new and wonderful.

The album throughout is spare, unsettling and haunting. The mournful horn refrain and pessimistic lyric of `The Morning Paper' sets the tone for the record. `Red Apples' is so skeletal with its piano accompaniment; the lyrics to this song and several others evoke weirdly nightmarish imagery with repeating motifs.

The two real upbeat songs, `I Was a Stranger' and `Ex Con', both tell tales from the outsider's perspective. The former impresses particularly with its narrator's self-justifying excuses for socially unacceptable behaviour: "Why do you women in this town/Let me look at you so bold/When you should have seen what I was" ending with the killer couplet: "I was worse than a stranger/I was well known".

`Red Apple Falls' is undeniably depressing in places but it delivers an enormous emotional impact and is suffused with beauty and brilliance. It will get under your skin and stay with you like Lou Reed's `Berlin' or Slint's `Spiderland'. The only disappointing track is the closer `Finer Days', which is a bit aimless after the superb preceding ragged call-to-arms of `Inspirational', but I can only give it five stars. Wonderful stuff.


Red Apple Falls
Red Apple Falls

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly Brilliant, 19 Feb 2008
This review is from: Red Apple Falls (Audio CD)
Smog's `Red Apple Falls' is arguably alt-country in the truest sense of the definition; traditional country instruments such as pedal steel guitar, Hammond and piano are employed with Bill Callahan's unconventional musical vision to create something new and wonderful.

The album throughout is spare, unsettling and haunting. The mournful horn refrain and pessimistic lyric of `The Morning Paper' sets the tone for the record. `Red Apples' is so skeletal with its piano accompaniment; the lyrics to this song and several others evoke weirdly nightmarish imagery with repeating motifs.

The two real upbeat songs, `I Was a Stranger' and `Ex Con', both tell tales from the outsider's perspective. The former impresses particularly with its narrator's self-justifying excuses for socially unacceptable behaviour: "Why do you women in this town/Let me look at you so bold/When you should have seen what I was" ending with the killer couplet: "I was worse than a stranger/I was well known".

`Red Apple Falls' is undeniably depressing in places but it delivers an enormous emotional impact and is suffused with beauty and brilliance. It will get under your skin and stay with you like Lou Reed's `Berlin' or Slint's `Spiderland'. The only disappointing track is the closer `Finer Days', which is a bit aimless after the superb preceding ragged call-to-arms of `Inspirational', but I can only give it five stars. Wonderful stuff.


High Scores
High Scores

4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Place to Start, 12 Feb 2008
This review is from: High Scores (Audio CD)
If you are new to the wonderful and mesmeric music of Boards of Canada this 6-track 30-minute EP is a great place to start.

'Hi Scores' and 'June 9th' are in the style of the more austere beats of the debut album 'Twoism', whilst the epic synth soundscapes of 'Everything You Do Is a Balloon' anticipate the richer sound of 'Geogaddi'. The boys show their sense of humour with 'Nlogax', a retro New Order-style club piece.

As a bonus you also get the utterly beautiful and beguiling 'Turquoise Hexagon Sun', which also appears on 'Music Has The Right to Children'. This track is one of Boards's finest of all time. Delicate melody and drenched in atmosphere - I never tire of hearing it.


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