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S Jones (Liverpool, UK)

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Acid Tongue
Acid Tongue
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £6.25

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "That difficult second album" syndrome strikes, 23 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Acid Tongue (Audio CD)
Jenny Lewis deserves credit for trying to not just replicate "Rabbit Fur Coat" and as other reviewers have noted this is rockier in its overall outlook. And her voice is still excellent. Sadly however, the songs just aren't as good and the album is lacking something overall.

The best songs come in a row in the middle: See Fernando, Godspeed and Carpetbaggers,her duet with Elvis Costello. Elsewhere however there are just fairly average efforts, with a couple of songs sounding like they are attempts to cash in on the Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan market. The title track sounds like a poor rewrite of Born Secular from "Rabbit Fur Coat" and Badman's World is just tedious.

All the way through the album one thing seemed to be missing, and after a couple of plays I realised - it's the Watson Twins' harmonies. That, plus the general songwriting quality, is what makes it a vastly inferior album to its predecessor

The Stoop
The Stoop
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £1.10

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg, but worth checking out, 26 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The Stoop (Audio CD)
As a 40 something white male, I'm not the demographic for this album, and my normal reaction to the likes of "Troubled Singer" Amy Winehouse, Kate Allen, Lily Nash etc is to flip the off button.

So I was surprised - and pleased - to find that this is a very good album on the whole. Its good points are
1. The Music - though it is full of the currently fashionable horns and 60s soul sound, it doesn't sound contrived or consciously "retro". On the contrary, it sounds very contemporary - the sort of thing that gives "pop" a good name.
2. Singer Imani Coppola has a great voice
3. When the songs work - which is at least 7 of the 11 tracks - they are catchy, full of humour and wry observation.

On the negative side, there are a few let downs. The lyrics are sometimes embarassingly awful - "men are from Mars, women are from Venus, we think with our minds, they think with their penis" being possibly the worst example while the final track is a cliched "we had it tough as kids but we all looked after each other" with a hip-hop by numbers tune. And some of the targets are a bit predictable.

That said, any album which contains songs as good as "28 Butts", in which the singer wonders how a childhood full of fun and promise has deteriorated into unemployment, cigarettes and booze, or as funny as "Cryin' for the Queen" which is a thinly veiled attack on the above mentioned "Troubled Singer" is definitely worth investigating

Die A Little
Die A Little
by Megan E. Abbott
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Character Study, 22 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Die A Little (Paperback)
My first reaction to this was "Does the world need another Raymond Chandler-esque mystery?" But I'm glad I persevered with this novel because it is an excellent study of obsession and how far someone will go to justify their actions. Lora, the narrator, starts the novel as a perfect small town high school teacher but her unrequited incestuous love for her brother, and her jealousy of his new wife leads her to unimagined depths of criminality. Her descent, coupled with her conviction that all her actions are for "the right reasons" make riveting reading when set against the familiar film-noir landscape of 1950s southern California. Reviewers who complain it is "slow" are missing the point that it's not about the plot but the character and her reaction to events. A great novel for Book Club discussion, not sure that a movie version will be any good if it stays true to the original.

Love Beach
Love Beach
Offered by silver-tentacle-UK
Price: £14.40

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A strong contender for Worst Album released - ever!, 11 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Love Beach (Audio CD)
Unlike many of their contemporaries, ELP have remained resolutely unfashionable since the late 70s - they typify for many the worst of "prog rock". That's a little unfair since they did produce at least one classic album (Trilogy) and most of their others did have some good music on them. However, this final album is the exception to the rule.

Depending on where you read it, Love Beach was either a contractual obligation album that the band (who had virtually split up) had to do, or it was an attempt to produce radio-friendly soft rock in order to generate some money to offset the massive losses they had sustained in touring the "Works" albums. Either way it's a stinker.

If the cover itself doesn't put you off - 3 middle-aged sex tourists pose on a caribbean beach - then playing the record will. The opening track, with its tinny synths and semi-spoken lyrics, hardly inspires and it just gets worse the further you get in. The absolute nadir is "Taste of My Love" where the lyrics are so toe-curlingly embarrassing that the average 14 year old would cringe.

The four part "Officer and a Gentleman" is so poor it's almost a parody of their earlier work. Again a dreadful lyric one assumes might have been inspired by Evelyn Waugh, with plodding music played again on what are very cheap and nasty sounding synths.

The only track that is worth listening to is "Canario", since it a) has no lyrics and b) wasn't written by the band

I can't imagine what has possessed the record company to re-release it, since it doesn't even pass the "so bad it's good" test; it's just bad...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2011 11:31 PM BST

The Village Green Preservation Society
The Village Green Preservation Society
Price: £5.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Isn't it Ironic? (and not in an Alanis Morrisette way), 8 Aug. 2008
Quite agree with all the previous reviews that this is an excellent album, one of the high spots of the Kinks career and containing some of Ray Davies's finest songs.

But I have always seen the "nostalgia" for an old England in the lyrics as intended to be ironic. The title track, with its references to "God Save Mrs Mopp, vaudeville and variety" is gently parodying the British obsession with the "Good Old Days",as is the song "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" with lines like "I live in a museum". Ray continued this theme with more bitterness in the next Kinks album "Arthur".

The song "Village Green" is virtually a spoof folk song, not too far removed from the Bonzo Dog Band, and to suggest that this album is out of step with its contemporaries just seems wrong (remember that one of the most popular stage musicals at this time was "Oh What a Lovely War" and it just precedes films like "If")

There are the songs which document the passing of time without irony, usually the more personal ones such as the magnificent "Do you remember Walter?" - again a theme Ray Davies has continued in more recent lyrics.

So enjoy the gentle humour and affectionate parody of this fantastic album, but don't believe that there ever was an idyllic "Village Green".

Price: £10.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They just want a lover like any other..., 30 Jun. 2008
This review is from: SEX WITH STRANGERS (Audio CD)
The members of the Gresham Flyers met via an internet music message board. Yet despite this ultra-contemporary start, their musical hearts lie in the post-punk days of the 7" black vinyl single. This debut album evokes the long forgotten days of "power pop" when pop bands realised that they had to add a "punky" sound to get anywhere and punk bands realised that to have any staying power they had to write songs. So here we have spiky guitars and cheap but catchy keyboards recalling early Blondie, mid-period Stiff Little Fingers, "This Years Model" era Costello and even The Boomtown Rats, all topped with lyrics echoing the sexual angst of Pete Shelley.

The album opener, "Everyone has to meet somewhere" sets the tone of casual encounters and unrequited lust set to a driving beat and catchy riff, and there's plenty more where that came from, with "Shiftwork" bemoaning the fact that working in a call centre is damaging the singer's sex life, while "Student Nurse" records a one-night stand from the viewpoint of both boy and girl.

Stand out track, although the most obviously derivative, is "Clockwatching". To say that this could have come straight from a Pulp album is intended as a compliment.

So, all in all, an impressive debut, and the sort of album Annie Nightingale or Kid Jensen might have picked as record of the week back in 1978/9. Whether their modern heirs will do so remains to be seen.

Price: £14.92

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Catchy pop with mod sensibilities, 23 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Bingo (Audio CD)
Firstly - how can there be a review of an album that isn't out yet? Could it be that this is simply PR hype or through an illegally downloaded copy? Actually, the album has been available direct from the Rinaldi Sings website since June, but isn't on general release until August.

So - what's it all about? This is the second release from Steve Rinaldi, and like its predecessor, is firmly located in mid 60s Swinging London. Unashamedly retro, these mod/soul songs manage to convey that era without ever straying into pastiche. Like the first album, we have driving brass and swirling organ, supporting Rinaldi's vocals, which I've described elsewhere as a cross between Steve Marriott and Tony Christie.

Stand-out songs: "Come as you are, you're a star" with its exubarent energy, "Where did it all go wrong Mr Best" which combines melancholy with musicality, and the punningly titled "End of An Error". Overall though this is a great summery pop soundtrack and Rinaldi Sings deserves a much wider audience than its current base of mods.

So why only 4 stars? my only criticism is that the Rinaldi sound hasn't progressed much from the debut album, and - perhaps in the way that the Small Faces moved in to psychedelia and The Who into rock opera - the next album can't simply stay on Carnaby Street

CSI: Ambleside
CSI: Ambleside
Price: £9.30

8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Addition to the HMHB catalogue, 22 Jun. 2008
This review is from: CSI: Ambleside (Audio CD)
Nigel Blackwell is one of the funniest and most trenchant lyricists around, who has written some fantastic songs in the past. So it gives me no pleasure to say that the latest offering from HMHB is well below the high standards we've come to expect.

The targets of the Blackwell ire are, on this aibum, mainly predictable and, what's worse, not very funny, "Blue Badge Abuser" and "Totnes Bickering Fair" being particular examples. "King Of Hi-Vis" takes an idea that Stuart Maconie did in a more amusing way in his recent "Pies and Prejudice" book, while "Took Problem Chimp to Ideal Home Show" has a more amusing title than song.

That's not to say everything is poor. In a pop world full of drug related songs, I can't think of another that deals with steroid abuse ("He's On The 'Roids"), while "Lord Hereford's Knob" combines an attack on gentrification with a level of innuendo not heard since the Carry On movies.

The final track (whose title I can't mention or amazon won't publish the review) contains some classic Blackwell one-liners, but Nigel actually recognises the problem with this album he has when he sings (having moaned hilariously about lots of the little things that annoy us) "I tried to put everything into perspective...thought about the Mugabe government and the children of the Calcutta railways...but then I encounter Primark FM"

So overall, this really is an album for committed fans only. If you've never heard HMHB and want to find out why they have such a great critical reputation, you'd be better advised to check out one of their earlier efforts
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2011 10:44 AM BST

The Fourth Bear: Nursery Crime Adventures 2
The Fourth Bear: Nursery Crime Adventures 2
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Detective Novel lies within, 26 Oct. 2007
What many people seem to miss is that, below the bad puns, literary jokes and nursery rhyme nonsense lurks a good detective story with real characters. DI Spratt and DS Mary Mary are rapidly becoming as interesting to follow as DI Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke. While a knowledge of Edward Lear will help you to work this one out, it's a well plotted murder/mystery story with plenty of smiles on the way. Fforde can be - as other reviewers have noted - occasionally too verbose and taken with his own cleverness, but not with this novel, which is in my view easily his best. Those who like their detective fiction with a dash of humour should enjoy it
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2008 8:55 PM GMT

Price: £14.22

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Timeless Pop, 21 Sept. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Translations (Audio CD)
Every so often, you come across a great artist and wonder why they aren't a big star. Sylvie Lewis certainly falls into that category.

"Translations" is her second release (though technically it is her third album, the first being her self-released and highly limited "Beautiful Mess"). It's a collection of highly literate and often wryly amusing songs, which are clearly influenced by many of her heroes (Cole Porter/Gershwin/Noel Coward etc) but which have a fresh and contemporary feel. A song like "Old Queens, Monet and Me" would not be out of place on the next Divine Comedy album.

Sylvie Lewis's voice has the same sweetness undercut by a note of melancholy that Karen Carpenter has, and that gives a depth to songs such as "Just You" which might otherwise seem too artificial. And on occasions she is reminiscent of Ute Lemper, most particularly on "Of Course, Isabelle..."

Even the CD cover is impressive - designed to look and feel like a Penguin paperback.

It would be very easy (and perhaps the answer to why she isn't more famous) to stick this on in the background, and think, "this is pleasant music and she has a nice voice", but dismiss it as no different to any other Radio 2-friendly female singer. That would be a travesty. This is an album that repays actually being listened to, and may well be one of the best albums released this year

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