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Mr K (UK)

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Kill For Love
Kill For Love
Price: £9.73

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 7 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Kill For Love (Audio CD)
This is an astonishing record. I had heard good things about this album, but I wasn't expecting something this complex, this subtle. Deeply textured, repeated listens draw out motifs of a yearning, a quiet desperation from its glossy depths. The songs are given time to breathe, but the tunes are sharp and the melodies insanely catchy at times.
Glib descriptions of "Kill For Love" as a synth pop or dark disco record do not even start to do it justice. It sounds a bit like it is from the 1980s but also from the 2080s. Darkly cinematic, these songs are tales of longing, of sadness and occasional warmth. There are definate nods to New Order, Bowie's Warszawa and even Pink Floyd in the mix, but overall Chromatics' sound is all their own. Brilliant.

Postcards From A Young Man
Postcards From A Young Man
Price: £20.26

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another fine album from The Manics, 21 Sept. 2010
When I first listened to "Postcards" I was a touch disappointed. I was not expecting a repeat of the brilliant "Journal" but even so the initial impression of "Send Away The Tigers" pt 2 left me lukewarm. It all seemed a bit overblown. However repeated listens have allowed details to emerge and the elements to coalesce into a wonderful noise.

The first 3 tracks are polished to a burnished rock gleam, and despite being a bit ridiculous (and the Manics have never been afraid of the ridiculous, thank goodness), are glorious. The album opener "It's Not War..." starts with a lovely, slightly scuffy riff before the strings sweep in like it's 1996. Anthemic and then some.
The title track follows in a similar vein. Whilst railing against the loss of principles the song soars until the defiant coda, ending with "I will not give up and I will not give in." Corny as hell, but wow, they are good at this kind of thing.
"Some Kind of Nothingness" is a fabulously over the top epic ballad featuring Ian McCulloch, choirs and a kitchen sink. Terribly sad yet utterly euphoric.
Things calm down a bit with "The Descent". In fact it sounds a bit tame, a bit sedate. Not bad, just...OK.
I thought Hazleton Avenue was a bit of a stinker on first listen, but I'm liking it more now. The riff is lovely, but the strings are perhaps too much here.
"Auto-Intoxication" is a throwback to an earlier Manics at times with it's choppy guitar and obvious politics. I like it a lot.
"Golden Platitudes" is a graceful and reflective ballad about political betrayal. In the context of this album quite understated.
As is "I Think I've Found It" which has at times an almost 80's indie feel, and a lovely lilting rhythm.
"A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun" is a fine, driving, rock song with a fists-in-the-air chorus and furious JDB guitar, and the caustic "All We Make Is Entertainment" continues the mood. Older and happier with their lives they may be, but The Manics still see plenty in the world that irks them.
"The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever" reminds me of The Stones! Sean Moore's trumpet is lovely, and even Wire's singing is OK.
The album ends with the rousing, aggressive, Google baiting. "Don't Be Evil".

Overall a great album, and one that gets better as you get to know it. There is no-one else around quite like the Manics. They may be easy to mock at times, with their hearts on sleeves politics and sometimes over-the-top style, but this is a triumphant record. I hope they sell shedloads.

The Archandroid
The Archandroid
Price: £6.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If there is any justice she will be a superstar, 27 July 2010
This review is from: The Archandroid (Audio CD)
If I were forced to pigeon-hole The ArchAndroid I would probably plump for R&B. I can't stand modern R&B, and yet Janelle Monáe's epic vision is a strong candidate for my album of the year so far. As an example of how genre defying this album is, The ArchAndroid was recommended to me by some fans of the band Elbow. It is not perfect - the concept is a bit forced, the penultimate track is to me a by-the-numbers effort, and occasionally you feel that Janelle is ticking boxes in honouring her musical influences - but the overall ambition and effect is magnificent, a truly 5 star album.

So what about the music? Monáe and her very skilled band effortlessly weave their story whilst gliding through a melange of musical styles that they manage to both keep coherent and make their own. It shouldn't sound modern, but it does. Songs sometimes merge into one another, others start with a jolt. Classical stylings ease into Afro-pop, then to classic 60's James Brown soul via Stevie Wonder. The influence of Prince and Funkadelic are never too far away either - Kelindo Parker certainly harnesses the spirit of Eddie Hazel in some of his guitar solos. Then there are hints of Blur(!), a Hawkwind riff (the tail end of "Cold War"), something that is akin to Post-Punk (Come Alive...), Prince plays the Beatles (Mushrooms and Roses), Scissor Sisters, Herbie Hancock, James Bond, Disney, Simon & Garfunkel (the lovely "57821") etc etc etc. The whole thing can at times be overwhelming, but in a good way.
The only bum note is the rather anodyne "Say You'll Go", but that is soon forgotten when the massive, sweepingly cinematic finale, "BeBopBye Ya", gets underway. This near 9 minute epic is structured like a Broadway showstopper, but covers multiple genres and whilst sprawling, manages to maintain its focus. Which kind of sums up The ArchAndroid.

Throughout the whole album Monáe's voice is magnificent. At times gently melodic, then hugely theatrical, she anchors the album with her voice and her personality.

Whilst there is nothing particularly new per se with The Achandroid, the audacity and breadth of its musical vision is unusual nowadays, and that is a breath of fresh air. It ain't perfect, but it is very very good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 23, 2010 11:49 PM BST

Night Train
Night Train
Price: £8.53

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Guilty Pleasure, 19 May 2010
This review is from: Night Train (Audio CD)
Night Train is cheezy, cringe-worthy at times, sometimes bombastic and features a couple of tracks with a rapper your Mum would like for heaven's sake. Despite all this I quite like it.

The first 4 tracks display Keane's mastery of melody and atmosphere well, the intro and the intentionally Bond theme like "Back In Time" are a bit over the top, but in a good way.

It has to be said, however, that "Ishin Denshin (You've Got to Help Yourself)" is truly awful, with no redeeming features whatsoever. And the one that starts with the Rocky theme and features the nice rapper - quite how that isn't the worst song in the history of recorded music is a mystery.

Overall though a decent effort that, at 35 minutes or so, is the perfect length for an album.

Head First
Head First
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.25

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually 3.5 stars - Goldfrapp goes back to the 80s, 24 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Head First (Audio CD)
Before I give my initial impressions I have to say that Goldfrapp have earned a huge amount of goodwill from me over the years so whilst having high expectations, I am predisposed to liking anything Alison and Will make. With that in mind...

Head First certainly isn't Seventh Tree. It also doesn't have any of the cinematic masterpieces like "Pilots" or "Time Out from the World" that they do so well and I love so much. No, Head First is day-glo, hands in the air, happy pop, all fat Moroder synths and Hi-NRG bass. Sound a bit 80's? You bet.

1st track "Rocket" opens like Ladyhawke, but then the full "Jump" synth line kicks in, and the whole thing is just so propulsive, retro, artificial and yet joyous that you can't help but be carried along. Alison is obviously in a happy place, and you can hear that on the album. I love it, but might just as easily hate it next week.

"Believer" is all Depeche Mode style synths with a big Fleetwood Mac style chorus. I like this too, for now.

Track 3 - "Alive". A bit more 70's than 80's this. Think ABBA versus ELO. Seriously. It should be awful, but maybe my critical radar is shot because of Alison's voice cos I like this too.

"Dreaming" - and a return to the 80's Fleetwood Mac style choruses.

The title track - blimey - who put an ABBA song on there? Possibly the best ABBA song ever, but still...
Melodically there are hints of "Seventh Tree" in here, which is nice.

Track 6's title - "Hunt" - sounds like it could have come from "Black Cherry" and the track certainly harks back to that album too, a bit darker, a bit sexier, a bit more Goldfrapp to be honest. Still in thrall of the 80s though.

"Shiny and Warm" also has echoes of Goldfrapp's past, this time Supernature. Squelchy and bouncy bass lines are almost childlike, Alison's breathy vocals are most definitely not. Good fun

Wooah, here come Fleetwood Mac again. "I Wanna Life" (awful title) is shameless, euphoric and catchy as hell.

The album ends with "Voicething" which is all looping sounds, atmosphere and ethereal voices, carried on a synth pulse to outer space.

And that's it. A 37 minute splash of primary colours, determinedly retro beats and fun. It has none of the po-faced seriousness of, say, Delphic, it is just a sugar rush of an album.
In other hands Head First could be awful, but Will and Alison manage to fit just enough "otherness" and Goldfrapp sensibility into proceedings to create an enjoyable experience.

It frankly knocks the Goldfrapp wannabes such as La Roux and Little Boots into next week, but is still Goldfrapp's weakest record so far.
Without doubt the best 80's inspired pop record to date. The only trouble is do we really need another one of those?

I like it though.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2010 10:29 AM GMT

Journal for Plague Lovers
Journal for Plague Lovers
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.71

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb album, 4 Aug. 2009
It has been a while since an album with so much "baggage" has been released. Would "Journal for Plague Lovers" be "The Holy Bible" Part 2 and if so, could it stand up to the comparison?

Well, to get straight to the point, at a visceral gut level "Journal..." really rocks. The opening track, "Peeled Apples" starts with an ominous bass rumble, the guitars growl, and then they howl. The track has an aggressive militant choppy strut and as a statement of intent - the Manics in your face shouting "We're here and we mean business!" - it is really terrific.

The next track, "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time" is another classic Manics track, this time with jaunty chiming guitars, but a different feel. "Peeled Apples" is all righteous rage, whereas "Jackie Collins" displays a dark humour in its philosophical musings, which was, to me, as unexpected as it was welcome. A brilliant hummable tune too.

"Me And Stephen Hawking" also, along with the warnings about genetic modification - "Today it's a cow, tomorrow it's you" - displays this humour - "We missed the sex revolution, When we failed the physical"

"This Joke Sport Severed" is no laughing matter - starting gently and building to a big finish, this is one of the bleaker tracks on the album, but is not cold, just very sad.

Then we get the title track, and once again they manage to surprise and amuse me - not with the lyrics - but with a riff that sounds EXACTLY like Rush's "Spirit of Radio", and it sounds fabulous.

Other highlights include; "She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach" which - as Richey's songs often do - concerns itself with damaged souls, but does it with more compassion than anything on "The Holy Bible", the furious "All Is Vanity", and the "Murmur" era REM jangle of "Virginia State Epileptic Colony".

"Journal..." ends with "William's Last Words" - which seems to divide opinion. Sung by Nicky Wire, it's certainly melancholic but also strangely uplifting - and for me Wire's fragile voice works really well. The overall effect of the song is like something from Lou Reed's "Transformer".
Actually, "Journal..." really ends with the hidden track "Bag Lady" which finishes the album in fine style, all jerky post-punk guitars and attitude.

So to sum up, "Journal for Plague Lovers" is a fine, fine album - possibly as good as anything the Manic Street Preachers have ever done. Whilst "Journal..." addresses dark themes, there is real warmth here, and a real sense of defiance. Musically it sort of sits between "The Holy Bible" and "Everything Must Go" but the suffocating nihilism & misanthropy of "The Holy Bible" is absent, as is the slightly cold grandeur of "Everything Must Go". For me "Journal for Plague Lovers" is a more mature album than either of those two classics, and has much more vitality - a superb achievement.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2009 3:39 PM GMT

It's Blitz!
It's Blitz!
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous record. 4.5/5, 2 April 2009
This review is from: It's Blitz! (Audio CD)
From the opening synth pulse it's clear that YYY are venturing into very different territory on "It's Blitz". Opening track "Zero" builds and builds into a huge slice of pulsating, overdriven synth-rock. A real statement of intent from the band, and the mood carries through to the next track "Heads Will Roll" with Karen O belting out It's Blitz's manifesto - "Off off off with your head, dance dance dance 'til you're dead."
After such a supercharged opening pair, the mood relaxes a little. Highlights include "Soft Shock", which throbs and shimmers, "Dull Life" which actually places Zinner's guitar to the fore and reminds me a little of Siouxsie & The Banshees, and the euphoric "Hysteric".
"It's Blitz" rewards repeated listens, to allow the rich variety of moods and song textures to break through what seems, initially, to be an almost overwhelming glossy electro-sheen, and also to get over the initial shock - where's the guitar?

Whether "It's Blitz" is regarded as a classic in the future, or just the creative peak of a synth pop/rock revival, I couldn't say - it may indeed date quite quickly, but for now this is a hugely enjoyable album - "dance, dance, dance 'til you're dead" - "It's Blitz" makes me want to do just that!

Fine Fascination
Fine Fascination
Offered by Renegade Sports Group Limited
Price: £2.24

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much ambition?, 1 April 2009
This review is from: Fine Fascination (Audio CD)
Red Light Company - the current band of the moment. I'm a sucker for all this hype, I still get excited by all the "next big thing" stuff that seems to precede any new band that can actually string together a song nowadays. Yes, I'm a mug, I know, because most of these new bands seem to be all surface and no substance (White Lies anyone?), but there you go.

So here come Red Light Company. Oh boy, do they want to succeed, they really want to be bigger than U2, or at least the Manics. The thing is, I have a feeling that they might just be massive. Not because they are in any way original, but precisely because they are not. This is identikit Indie-rock, with huge hooks, chiming guitars, uplifting choruses but oftimes glum subject matter (to keep it real!). All very Suede, actually. It is so successfully derivative that I am often swept along despite myself. To be fair there is an occasional glimmer of something slightly different underneath the sheen, but it is fleeting.

I actually saw RLC last year at a tiny local venue before knowing anything about them, and was shocked at the time by how professional they where, they took the gig as seriously as if they where playing Wembley Arena or something, and made a massive sound in that little hall. The lead singer has plenty of aloof charisma (like a cut-price Bowie), and the band can really play. All very impressive if a little soulless.

Perhaps I am being a bit snooty about them, after all is there anything wrong with ambition?

So to sum up, Fine Fascination is enjoyable enough if you like that sort of thing and don't analyse it too much, but it might annoy in equal measure. If they could be braver next time, and cut loose a bit more, rather than trying so hard to be an overnight success they might actually produce a good record in the future. For now, I think you'll be hearing plenty of RLC on the radio, at the festivals etc, and I for one won't mind too much. Sure, it's all a bit artificial, but there'll be a lot worse out there.

Dark Days/Light Years
Dark Days/Light Years
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £3.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just genius - fact!, 27 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Dark Days/Light Years (Audio CD)
Playful, rocking, tender, psychedelic, shimmering, groovy, harmonic, magical, and mad as a box of frogs, it is quintessential SFA. Go on, spoil your ears.

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