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A. J. Gilpin (Cardiff, UK)
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Funky Was the State of Affairs
Funky Was the State of Affairs
Price: 11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet, 23 Sep 2012
This was chosen as the new release album of the month to discuss and rate at our local music club and what a bizarre listen it is. This is Fergus and Geronimo's second album. They are a punk spirited, experimental rock act who are highly original.

Funky Was The State of Affairs is a short album coming in at a little over half and hour (as did their debut, Unlearn). Of its 16 tracks, 6 are dedicated to avant garde non musical cuts comprising of sound collages of modern day life (think of an updated Revolution No. 9 on the Beatles' White Album) and humorous spoken pieces linking the musical tracks. Thankfully (for it is not really my thing), they only account for around 7 minutes and are not too intrusive so I have not marked the album down as a result.

F&G wouldn't have deserved that anyway as the musical tracks cover a multitude of styles to excellent effect - late 70s punk, post punk, 60s garage rock, funk and jazz. The punkier tracks are virtual pastiches such as Roman Tick which is so spot on it wouldn't be out of place on an early Buzzcocks album. In fact, the only thing that gives it away as a modern track is the reference to online dating. It really is a lovely little album. 7 out of 10.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2012 1:03 PM BST


Pop Tune
Pop Tune
Price: 12.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review I did for my music club, 23 Sep 2012
This review is from: Pop Tune (Audio CD)
This was recently chosen at our local music club as our new release of the month to discuss and rate and, like other albums chosen at the club, I have reproduced my vocal utterances for you, dear Amazon user.

My first thought when I heard Pop Tune was how much their sound reminded me of the Ramones. Indeed, whilst I was listening to it, I looked them up online and discovered that their last album was a Ramones tribute - and an excellent one at that (Osaka Ramones...4 stars if I was to review it). So, Shonen Knife are a band which where their influences, or chief influence anyway, on their sleeve. Nothing wrong with that, especially when that band is one of the greatest bands in history and, considering the Ramones are no more, their legacy is in good hands. Also, and for those of you who don't know, Shonen Knife have a female lead which means that the Ramones-style tracks appear fresher as a result. In fact, they are, and always have been, an all girl band and have been around some 30 years. The only surviving member from their original line up is Naoko Yamano, the singer, guitarist and songwriter. And what a talent she is.

The album, as my 4 star rating indicates, I like a lot. It is very immediate which is not surprising given the album's name - Pop Tune. All the songs are poppy and catchy and, if there is one criticism that can be levelled against it, it is that some of the tracks are a little too catchy and begin to wear after a few listens. But this is only a minor quibble and there is certainly far more to recommend it which in a nutshell are some excellent melodies backed up by fine guitar accompaniments and tight rhythms and, with another nod to the Ramones, some wonderfully dumb lyrics. Punk fans will certainly like it and if you like your pop or rock music melodically driven then you will like it, too.


Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo/Devo Live
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo/Devo Live
Price: 6.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A post punk classic, 16 July 2012
Are We Not Men is our current classic album of the month at our music club so, having listened to it to rate and review at our next meeting, I thought I'd post a review here. I do remember Devo at the time (in the late 70s) and although I quite liked them, it wasn't enough to buy any of their stuff (other than one sole 45, Be Stiff). I am pleased, therefore, to put that right because I will be buying this album. Devo were the first in the new wave of American punk arriving in the wake of the big five of Patti Smith, The Ramones, Television, Blondie and the Talking Heads. They would prove to be equally as inspirational with their artfully rhythmic, jerky style of punk pop music. On this side of the Atlantic, one can imagine a young Robert Smith of the Cure or Adam Ant taking notes because they both took something from Are We Not Men, whether it be stylistically or sonically. Words of praise must go to Brian Eno who tackled the punk genre for the first time and he did a superb job evincing wonderful guitar and synth sounds which lifts the already fine source material to new heights. Are We Not Men is a post punk classic. 9 out of 10.


Banga
Banga
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 6.66

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BANG ON, 14 July 2012
This review is from: Banga (Audio CD)
Having only heard Horses from her oeuvre I therefore do not count myself as a fan of Patti Smith. Being a music fan who always appreciates the music before the lyrics may explain why I didn't appreciate Horses as much as most did and, consequently, why I always preferred the early albums of the New York scene's other punk pioneers, the Ramones, Television, Blondie and the Talking Heads. So it is all the more surprising that I actually like Banga so much. Ordinarily, I wouldn't even have listened to it but it was chosen as the album of the month in our local music club so listen to it I had to. Yes of course it is as lyrical and poetic as you'd expect (how good it is on these counts, I'll leave it to others to say) but it is the music that impresses this listener. The melodies are strong on the sung tracks and where her vocals are spoken, the musical accompaniment is spot on. A good example of the latter is on the longest track, the 10 minute plus Constantine's Dream. Normally, I would find such tracks boring and self indulgent but with a fine musical track to back it, it works well. Other stand out tracks for me are the semi sung/semi vocal opener, Amerigo, and the wonderfully folky Nine which, appropriately is the ninth track (do you see what they did there?). My admiration for Banga shows that you don't have to be a Patti Smith fan to like it and I recommend it to all who have reached the end of this review.


Honey Moon
Honey Moon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Are the Handsomes losing their SPARK?, 9 July 2012
This review is from: Honey Moon (MP3 Download)
Well I've done it. That is now all the Handsome Family's studio albums reviewed. Honeymoon is their eighth and, to date, their latest release. Famously (or as famous as things can get Handsomes-wise), this is the album on which Rennee got all romantic and gone are her trademark dark lyrics. Whether that is the reason that the music is, for them, flat is difficult to say. I found their last Album before this, The Last Days of Wonder, similarly flat so maybe The Handsome Family have just lost their mojo? That remains to be seen and we'll just have to wait for their next release. All that said, though, and as I alluded to last time, a flat Handsome Family album still has more depth than the vast majority of music out there and there is enough good music on most of the tracks to make it a worthwhile album. Like most of their albums, Honeymoon finishes strongly and the final track in particular, The Winding Con Maze, is so good it would comfortably sit on any of their classic albums.


Last Days of Wonder
Last Days of Wonder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'd rather say this is their least best than their worse!, 6 July 2012
This review is from: Last Days of Wonder (MP3 Download)
This is the Handsome's seventh studio album...and, in my quest to review each of their albums, my seventh review of theirs (you won't be surprised to hear). All of their previous six albums have achieved at least a 4 star rating so it is with some regret to say that The Last Days of Wonder, being my least favourite album of theirs up to that point, falls a little short. Well, one of their albums has to be my least favourite, I suppose. Their last album, The Singing Bones, was their quietest and most country sounding album up to that point and this album is even quieter and even more country. That is fine if that is the sound of theirs you like best but it is not as much to my taste as their first five albums. That said, there is not a bad song on it and, indeed, there are some excellent tracks - Tesla's Hotel Room, the rocky All The Time in Airports, Hunter Green (with a rare full Rennie vocal) and the final track, Someone Else To Be - enough to give the album 7 out of 10.


Singing Bones (CD)
Singing Bones (CD)
Price: 10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not their best but still good, 2 July 2012
This review is from: Singing Bones (CD) (Audio CD)
Having already reviewed the previous five Handsomes studio releases, (Odessa 4 stars, Milk and Scissors 4, Through The Trees 5, In The Air 4, Twilight 5) Singing Bones is next in line. I can't help comparing this album to In The Air and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, both that album and this follow what I consider to be their two masterpieces, Through the Trees and Twilight. Secondly, they both start slowly before bursting into life with the fourth track. Of course! that is coincidental, not to mention a purely subjective observation on my part but it gives the impression that the Handsomes, after the aforementioned peaks, were just treading water with their following albums. That's not to say that The Singing Bones isn't good, because it is. Hell, their worst (not that this is their worst) is still better than most artists' best!

The standout track for me is Fallen Peaches. This is the track that led me to loving this band's music. It featured on a Mojo music magazine freebie CD last year. I sent it to a friend of mine who I thought would like it and it transpired that he had some of their albums. Then earlier this year, he alerted me to a gig of theirs in Oxford and we went to see them. I still hadn't delved into their music at this point but, in preparation for the gig, I quickly put that right, finding their back catalogue uniformly excellent. They were brilliant live and Renee Sparks even served me on the merchandise counter when I bought Through The Trees. Anyway, this is turning into an anecdote more than a review...so back to the album.

The Singing Bones is probably their slowest, quietest album up to that point and, as such, their most country sounding release. After a pedestrian start, it is, in the main, very good throughout and, like all their previous albums, reaches a 4 star rating.


Twilight
Twilight
Price: 10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their second masterpiece, 30 Jun 2012
This review is from: Twilight (Audio CD)
The problem with reviewing The Handsome's back catalogue is that it risks becoming boring, with me spouting superlatives about each and every album. Having only recently discovered them and listening to all their albums in quick succession (in preparation for a gig of theirs I attended last month) I decided to review each and every album and, for the first time, I'm struggling for words. This is their fifth studio album and I have now realised that there is nothing original to say. So I'll just have to recycle what I have said about their four previous releases. Twilight, yet again, is simply a wonderful album, with the usual effective mix of rock, pop, and ballads with a country feel. For your information, not to mention my music geekery, I'd rate this their second best album behind the mighty Through The Trees which I rated as 5 stars and which is one do my favourite albums of all time. This comes close...close enough to give it another 5 stars!


Standing At the Sky's Edge
Standing At the Sky's Edge
Offered by westworld-
Price: 7.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A review based on comments for my music club review, 26 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was chosen as the new release to review at this month's music club I attend. I do own one Richard Hawley album, Cole's Corner, which I bought after everyone was eulogising about it in the end of year polls a few years back. Whilst I thought it was ok (3 stars if I were reviewing it), it didn't live up to expectations. I just couldn't take to his style of sparse, Scott Walker type song writing. And with so many artists to explore, that probably would have been my last brush with Richard Hawley but since I have been attending this music club, we have to listen to the albums chosen and I am so glad I have because Standing At The Sky's Edge is a very good album indeed. Gone, virtually, is the sparse instrumental backing of previous albums and he has filled this space with some superb guitar playing to back the wonderful melodies. This fuller sound suits him and he has carried off this new direction with aplomb giving us a nicely varied album of psychadelia, rock, folk and ballads.


Dusk
Dusk
Price: 17.93

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good album but too similar to George Michael, 26 Jun 2012
This review is from: Dusk (Audio CD)
I remembered The The from the 80s mainly because he was someone the NME seemed to promote. This had a lot to do with his left wing politics as much as his music which I didn't really listen to much. Back then I was a Smiths and REM fan and I didn't find The The that tuneful and, to be honest, I probably wouldn't have listened to them now had it not been for the fact that it was the classic album chosen by our monthly music club.

My first thought after listening to Dusk was how much Matt Johnson sounded like George Michael. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. Although I hated Wham because they represented everything I disliked about the 80s, in the early 90s there were a couple of singles that Michael released - Freedom and Praying For Time - which I particularly liked so I bought the album, Listen Without Prejudice. Now, you are probably thinking that this has turned into a review for George Michael but the reason I have gone down this avenue is that Johnson not only sounds like Michael on a good few tracks but the albums are similar stylistically too and I cannot help but compare them and I think that George Michael does it all just a little bit better. (For the record, if I reviewed it, I would give Listen Without Prejudice 4 stars.)

That said, I think that Dusk is a fairly good album encompassing pop, rock, and funk and there isn't really a bad song on it. But the thing is there is nothing I really like a lot either. A few tracks come close. Track 4 for instance has a nice Smiths-like riff by Johnny Marr and the album finishes strongly beginning with track 8, a lovely instrumental and is followed by a couple of strong pop songs. Overall, a 6 or 7 out of 10.


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