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Tom Chase (London)

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District 9 [DVD] [2009]
District 9 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Sharlto Copley
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £2.53

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Subtle As A Teen-Foot Alien, 25 Jan. 2010
This review is from: District 9 [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Protagonist Wikus battles through a physically tormented journey, but to little emotional impact. He is introduced as undeserving of his position and forceful at work - and there's a half-hearted jab towards a happy family home that is insubstantial. As a result I never felt any sympathy, worry...anything...towards his manic unraveling. As for the aliens, their character developments become fodder for the increasingly predictable plot. And the child alien is really cute.

There's also the issue of the mockumentary style, something tired and derived for the most part, and given no new life here. Such limitations mean District 9 will never reach its ambitious heights. An interesting concept, politically charged and full of explosions, but flawed and heavy-handed.

Murray Street
Murray Street
Price: £6.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly aged, 8 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Murray Street (Audio CD)
The first few minutes of The Empty Page make it apparent Sonic Youth aren't about to shred your ears with the noise rock of Daydream Nation - nor are they about to bully you with prime grunge-era swagger of Dirty. Instead, Murray Street shows the underbelly of Sonic Youth - the serene melodic bliss that underpinned all their attitude and experimentation.

It seems odd that the current band and their most recent "The Eternal" are hell-bent on sounding raw and ballsy again, when this seemed a real maturing. There are extended guitar jams, jagged riffs and trademark off-kilter melodies - but not wrapped up in experimentation and noise. There's serenity to the sound where the melodies are given room, freed of the ever-cacophonous guitar attack of before. Murray Street sounds unquestionably like a Sonic Youth album - but just older, matured and...relaxed?

Now I'm not saying one is better than the other. I love the attitude and sound of Daydream Nation and Goo, but Murray Street offers a perfect change - a meditative little sister - perfect for times when feedback screeching between pop hooks is not always a necessity.

Burning Off Impurities
Burning Off Impurities
Price: £11.26

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea music, 26 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Burning Off Impurities (Audio CD)
"Good idea music" is everywhere. It's on all those websites and blogs you bookmark. It's a mash of all the genres you like and the mass genre defining makes you drawl. It is talked about by others in such a way you think it could well be your favourite album ever made.

Grails fit this bill perfectly. Here's some labels I've found researching this album - post rock, experimental, world music, tribal, krautrock, instrumental, post metal, jazz...Being a big fan of many of these genres, it sounds absolutely enthralling. Throw in the `world music' tag, and even the daring `tribal' - the kind of vague, half-arse terminology thrown around in music - and you have yourself a melting pot of amazement.

Unfortunately, as with all "good idea music", the whole package is not the sum of its parts. You realise these wild and genius genre labels are mere reference points. I think of someone listening and thinking "oooaa this is kiiiiind of like Can....?Yes, this is sort of krautrock!" I also get the sense this is how Grails make the music, adding bits here and there, touching upon styles and sounds. It's unconvincing and timid. Instead of researching and delving into a sound, they add `influences'...flourishes of a weird unknown instrument, or a melody converted into electric guitar.

The whole album becomes an amalgamation of undeveloped references and influences. Songs blend and merge, building in volume and texture until deconstructing, all the time encompassing these influence/reference sounds. It's interesting to begin with and maybe for a couple of spins, but soon it becomes one-dimensional and predictable. It just seems too easy.

Gerhard Richter - Text: Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007: Writings and Interviews, 1961-2007
Gerhard Richter - Text: Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007: Writings and Interviews, 1961-2007
by Gerhard Richter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.80

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most insightful Richter book there is, 18 Aug. 2009
The big emphatic title "TEXT" sprawls across the cover. It's big, heavy and thick. It advertises obscure interviews, journal notes and even catalogue notes. Images are sparse, and those that seldom pop up are small and black and white. It's unabashed theory bliss.

Fans of Richter and students of art will understand the importance of a book like this. Richter's philosophies sprawl five decades back to the early 60's. He is one of the most important painters in the 20th Century, yet his vast array of conceptual theories are often hard to pin down. He can be awkward and borderline perverse in exhibition catalogues and journal interviews. His book "The Daily Practice of Painting" is a fascinating insight, yet often becomes provocative rather than theoretical. Then there's essays in books which delve deep into highly conceptual analysis, and often veer off from Richter's original words.

"Text" then is the ultimate book for the fan or student looking for concrete and original writings about Richter's career. It blends together his philosophical writings from "The Daily Practice..." with more practical explanations from interviews. There's useful summaries that concisely go through each year's developments. There's letters to artists and gallery owners. There's even explanations and ideas for setting up exhibitions. This is the most insightful book around for delving into Richter's long spanning career.

Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Price: £8.89

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I could just leave my body, 17 Aug. 2009
It's colourful and playful at times, ambient and moody at others. Some songs thump along in a psych-out rave. The electronic buzz ringing, the climatic synths, the blasting drums!!...then other songs become drenched in neo-psych hazes, slowly unraveling; basked in beautiful melody and harmonies.

And that's the key really. "Merriweather Post Pavillion" is Animal Collective's most outright beautiful record. All those uplifting moments of pure joy from the old albums are fully realised and explored. It's a triumph. It's Animal Collective's best, and the best this year so far.


5.0 out of 5 stars Bare bones, 23 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Spiderland (Audio CD)
The ability to forge powerful and emotionally evocative music with as little instrumentation and texture as possible. To create something starkly minimal and elegant that is also overwhelming and encapsulating. This is what Slint managed so well with "Spiderland". They stripped traditional rock formats to extreme basics, creating one of the most important contemporary albums.

"Spiderland" is often labelled as one of the very first post-rock albums. There is certainly the stark dynamic shifts akin to the genre, with songs often starting out as single guitar motifs and ending as full-on assaults. The vocals drift between soft whispers, spoken word and frustrated croons. However, "Spiderland" is much more than today's often generic post-rock sound. The guitars are gritty and far more visceral than anything Mogwai or GY!BE would ever belt out, and often progress into full-on riffs. It's atmospheric, but in an intensely sombre way that goes beyond much of the disposable noodling found in modern post-rock. Perhaps then it is just what post-rock should be. It should be beautiful music that can be at once fragile and on the brink of falling apart, and switch to absolute bombastic power.

There really isn't a weak track, and the songs tend to follow similar patterns and structuring - and so I don't feel it necessary to pick apart every song as some fans have done. To be concise, "Spiderland" is the perfect deconstruction of rock - it manages to be abrasive and confrontational, yet unadorned and delicate.

13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £12.72

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A post-rock album with some PUNCH!, 5 Mar. 2009
There remains a strong contingent of people who still want their post-rock subtle, elegant and adorned in ribbons. They still want it to be accessible and gentle - to be inoffensive so they can let it hopelessly loop in the background to their daily activities. The result is an immense over-saturation of mediocre, atmospheric noodling that accounts for the majority of post-rock today. The one-time powerful and grandiose sound has became reduced to formulaic cliches. It has been drained of its original vitality.

I can remember years back hearing the likes of Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emporer and Mogwai and being immediately taken. The atmosphere, the textures, the guitar was unlike anything I had ever heard, and still haven't to this day. It was cutting edge, it was experimental, it was utterly powerful. It was POST-rock. It was most importantly foreward-thinking. Sadly, it has lost its way, and I can't help but question what happened to all the potential? What happened to music without barriers, without constraints? How did it all become middle-ground, ambient instrumental `rock'? What happened to the punch in it all?

Thankfully other people have been thinking likewise, including Efrim Menuck himself. To be blunt, "13 Moons" is the first post-rock album that hasn't bored me in a long time. Maybe even years. It's a hefty kick in the balls to the congealed bile that has been clogging this once superb genre.

This should be evident with one listen to the immense "1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound". Gentle plucking and a haunting vocal harmony repeating the title set the scene. Around the refreshingly early 4 minute mark instruments are added - the guitars ring with a real gritty tone, there's even a hint of a guitar RIFF! Steady of there Efrim, you might give yourself a cardiac arrest! Anyway, the drums crash, the strings pierce and detract, and Efrim unleashes his angsty vocals. Things build and build, twisting and turning, until the main melody is unleashed in unison with every instrument. It's a beautiful moment and it takes me right back to the glory days of GY!BE. Satisfyingly, so satisfyingly, the crescendo is stripped down, taken to its minimal extreme and washed over with Efrim's idiosyncratic delay chords. The song is a sheer triumph. It had me smiling, fist pumping the air and shouting YES! YES! THIS IS MOST DEFINATELY NOT BACKGROUND MUSIC, HUZZAH!

I won't go into details with all the songs here, that would be like...listening to other recent post-rock albums! All you need to know is that excellence is continued. The final crescendo to the title track is immense, and the melodies throughout "Black Waters Bowed" are as touching as anything in the band's back catalogue.

I also want to address the vocals and lyrics. I've read a bunch of reviews claiming Menuck has ruined A Silver Mt.ZIon's sound with his newfound emphasis on vocals. A barrage of abuse has been slung at them - tone deaf, grating, unlistenable etc. His lyrics have also been attacked as being perverse and naively obvious. I really couldn't care less. Yes, his vocals are often whacked out of key, but they are full of energy and emotion. It's refreshing to hear someone just occasionally unleash his voice, not giving a rat's anus what comes out. When the music gets big, his vocals penetrate over the top so wonderfully. At times it acts more like another instrument than a voice.

And then the lyrics...sure, a line like "the hangman has a hard-on" is deliberately obtuse and maybe a little pretentious, but hey, since when was this band not? I find it ridiculous that people can attack the lyrics as pretentious cliches and disregard all the other jargon surrounding these guys. For example, their incessant desire to slam as many words in a song title as possible, or their odd seemingly pointless tinkering with their name. Also, have all you critics always understood what this music is saying. I mean, exactly? Can you all say you really got exactly what GY!BE's message was about? All those clippings and texts in liner notes, do you get all that? Sure, you know both bands have an anti-establishment, political thing going on, but is it crystal clear to you? Surely by now people can be ready for the odd deliberately obtuse, over-your-head `message'. To bring up ASMZ on this is like being surprised the latest Metallica album is rubbish.

Overall I can say that this is a post-rock album that really kicks you in the teeth. For a while now the genre has been a slacking mess, full to the brim of mediocre ambient rock bile. I've been bored so much that I had become disillusioned. Certainly "13 Moons" is rough around the edges, but it's simply the most monumental ride this genre has seen since GY!BE.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2010 12:00 PM GMT

Desert Sessions,  Vol. 1 & 2
Desert Sessions, Vol. 1 & 2
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £80.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experimental & intriguing, 7 Jan. 2009
If you are looking through the early Desert Sessions releases then chances are you're a fan of some of the members. And certainly these EPs prove to be interesting listens. I've always deemed them as something of an experiment, an alter-ego for Homme and his friend musicians. Interesting yes, but not totally satisfying. Throughout the sessions many songs are more ideas than finished articles, and many of these ideas later blossom into full on songs, particularly with the latest QOTSA output. More recent Desert Sessions hold up consistently and can be treated as more a finished article.

In Rainbows
In Rainbows
Price: £6.99

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This wants to be your lover, 1 Jan. 2009
This review is from: In Rainbows (Audio CD)
I read a quote on "In Rainbows" that stated Radiohead had finally met expectations by surpassing them. I can certainly echo this statement, and perhaps even stake the claim that this may well be Radiohead's best album. Certainly a huge claim, but "In Rainbows" is a wondrous album.

I will keep things short as many reviewers have picked apart and detailed individual songs and themes. So, most importantly for me, "In Rainbows" treads that impossibly difficult line of being mostly accessible yet surprisingly lasting. It simply does not tire. Months and months of sporadic listens and I still become totally involved and immersed, a feat that separates truly great albums from good ones. The overall sound of the album perfectly blends the sombre electronic tones of "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" with the guitar-driven rock of "Ok Computer" and "The Bends". It's satisfyingly experimental when need be, yet equally sparse and simplistic. It's cold and desolate at times, warm and genial at others. It is everything I can want from a Radiohead album. Beautiful, consistent, cutting-edge music.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2012 4:23 PM GMT

Dopes to Infinity
Dopes to Infinity

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've got mushrooms in my head, boy, 28 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Dopes to Infinity (Audio CD)
"Dopes to Infinity" is Monster Magnet at their absolute best. Listening to Dave Wyndorf and the gang's recent output it's hard to even compare, such is the fall from grace. Thankfully though, this album and its predecessors are superb. Catchy, melodic, fuzzy and spacey, the sound is irresistible.

In fact, the first six tracks on "Dopes to Infinity" make up some of the very best stoner rock to come out of the 90s. Tracks like "Look to Your Orb For Warning", "Negasonic Teenage Warhead" and the title track perfectly blend grooving, fuzzy riffs with melodic hooks, all encapsulating Wyndorf's raspy and powerful vocals. There's slower, more psychedelic edged tracks, the best of which "All Friends and Kingdom Come" wonderfully forges a kind of melancholy, trippy atmosphere. It's all great and consistent listening. Monster Magnet at their best are superb; it's a real shame it went downhill from here.

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