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Reviews Written by
Daniel Margrain "hairy marx" (London)
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Tigermilk
Tigermilk
Price: £7.74

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Erudite experimental folk, 11 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Tigermilk (Audio CD)
The Scottish ensemble Belle And Sebastian, headed by singer Stuart Murdoch, are, along with Stereolab, one of the more interesting of the acts to have emerged out of Britain at the end of the century. Their debut 'Tigermilk'(1996), essentially puts a new and refreshing, but understated spin on 1960s folk with the added element of an intense pathos and poetic, tender but catchy melodies and eclectic experimentation.

'The State I Am In' sounds like a take on one of John Denver's melancholy wails. 'You're Just A Baby' has the staccato guitar, the youthful handclapping and romantic attitude of early Neil Diamond. 'I Don't Love Anyone' nods towards Dylan-esque strummed guitar and bluesy vocals, whilst 'She's Losing It' hints at the ethereal, swinging harmonies of the 'barbershop quartets' and the breezy ballads of country & western.

The band abandons that simple format and ventures into more adventurous territory with a handful of songs. 'I Could Be Dreaming', for example, has the brio, the guitar reverb and the gospel organ of garage-rock, but the vocal harmonies of the Everly Brothers. 'Expectations' vibrates at a thick, feverish tempo, while the trumpet intones a joyful fanfare.

'We Rule The School' has the plain, dreamy tone of a Donovan and the plaintive tone of a Jackson Browne, but sits on top of a classical piano and cello sonata, and even indulges in a flute and harpsichord minuet worthy of baroque concertos. 'Electronic Renaissance' employs a disco beat and distorted vocals akin to New Order.

The album represents the first of their opening three works that are all as close to being erudite masterpiece's as it's possible to be. Of the three, this, their debut, is arguably the best. It displays a kind of rural 'fairy tale' flair that is closer to Donovan than it is to Dylan.


In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Price: £7.13

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exaggerated claims for greatness, 5 Sept. 2010
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Jeff Mangum, the man behind 'Neutral Milk Hotel' (1998), has created a kind of sythesis of a modern Tom Rapp and Frank Zappa's 'Freak Out'. The fuzzy guitar and hazy sound is reminiscent of Jesus And Mary Chain, whilst the quirky arrangements a` la Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks (trombone, xylophone, organ), is halfway between the Salvation Army and classical music. The album does not warrant the almost fanatical media and critical praise bestowed upon it, although it does have its moments.


Psycho Candy
Psycho Candy
Price: £5.98

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated slice of British psychedelia, 5 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Psycho Candy (Audio CD)
Jesus And Marychain coined 'feedback-pop' which was a variation on the psychedelic revival of the 1980s. The idea was quite simple, certainly not new and clinically cynical in its concept and execution. Rather like the musical version of the alchemist's, the band took the Velvet Underground's 'White Light White Heat', added a catchy melody and Phil Spector's 'wall of sound', a layer of guitar noise - massive distortions coupled with a nihilistic ethos borrowed from the Sex Pistols and the existential despair of Joy Division, and hey presto, 'Psychocandy' (1985) was born.

Furthermore, they borrowed their iconography from The Ramones and the Sex Pistols to arrive at a new paradigm of rebellion in music. The songs are divided between tender, spectral and surreal ballads reminiscent of the chants sung by Nico ('Just Like Honey', 'You Trip Me Up', 'Hardest Walk'), tribal voodoobilly 'hyper abrasive' nods to Suicide ('Living End', 'Never Understand', 'In A Hole'), chanting melodies wrapped in hallucinogenic 'Doors-like' trance ('Taste the Floor') and rampant bubblegum choruses ('My Little Underground').

With 'Psychocandy', the Jesus And Marychain introduced a strong sense of melody and cadence, and devastating generational psychedelic anthems which exemplified the mood of the times. At the same time they revived the paranoid primitivism of the Velvet Underground. Ultimately their up-dated feed-back power-pop chimed with the ritualistic requirements of the music industry of the time.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2011 2:44 PM BST


Bufo Alvarius
Bufo Alvarius
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.69

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cosmic trip, 4 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Bufo Alvarius (Audio CD)
With 'Bufo Alvarius' (1995), Philadelphia-based Bardo Pond produced an album that towers over every other space-rock band of the era. The band turned the acid-rock jam into a major art coining a new form of music built around supersonic drones. The average piece was a rainstorm of guitar distortions, strident turbulences and catastrophic drumming, halfway between MC5's heavy blues and Spacemen 3's shoegazing. It was the soundtrack of a cosmic trauma that still haunts the firmament.


Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £5.70

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest female singer-songwriting effort since Joni Mitchell, 4 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Rickie Lee Jones (Audio CD)
Rickie Lee Jones, protege of Tom Waits, is the greatest female singer-songwriter since Joni Mitchell bar none. Her classic debut album 'Rickie Lee Jones' (1979) is a bold dissection of the moral landscape of the US that fluctuates between sobriety and intoxication (both physical and spiritual).

Jones is both visionary and romantic while singing about the alienated and neurotic life in the city. Meanwhile, the backing band tinged her ballads with nocturnal rhythm'n'blues and jazz, coining an intellectual variant of late-hours lounge-music. The Singer and her band acted 'classy' while being deliberately sloppy. Rickie Lee Jone's debut is arguably the greatest solo debut of all-time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2014 4:27 PM BST


On Fire
On Fire
Price: £6.21

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghostly ethereal psychedelic classic, 3 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: On Fire (Audio CD)
Comprising of guitarist Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang and and drummer Damon Krukowski, Galaxie 500 were a band who went against the anthemic trends of their time, which probably goes some way to explaining why their music is more relevant today than many of their contemporaries. Their sound, which was devoted to urban alienation, was anti-theatrical and languid, a kind of reversed expressionism.

The trio's sound is reminiscent of the work of elements of the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and Television but they have a distinctive sound all of their own that has filtered out the vitality of these artists. 'On Fire' (1989) is their masterpiece, a personal work that has an existential anesthetic that has echoes of the acid-rock past.

But the sound of the band is ethereal, sleepy, ghostly that touches on the inner language of the subconscious devoid of emotional attachment and moral isolation in an post-industrial landscape. 'On Fire' evokes a passionless community who are only capable of articulating the emptiness of their lives in a vocabulary of negative words.

Galaxie 500 are the only band who are able to invoke the confessions of people who do not even know anymore how to grieve for their own sorrow. These dirges were the exact opposite of the anthemic call to arms of rock'n'roll of over-rated bands like U2 and Coldplay.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2014 10:55 AM BST


Soundtracks For The Blind
Soundtracks For The Blind
Price: £30.30

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful musical soundscape, 3 Sept. 2010
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The Swans, largely a vehicle for leader Michael Gira's apocalyptic angst, were one of the most significant bands of the 1980s. 'Soundtracks For The Blind' (1996), is a masterpiece of abstract soundscapes and spectral textures. These forms represented a separate and welcome phase in the Swans sound which is basically a quest for a new spiritualist awakening. Soundtracks is a musical requiem for troubling times through which Gira's emotions were realized.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2010 1:02 AM BST


Feats Don't Fail Me Now
Feats Don't Fail Me Now
Price: £6.30

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roots-rock pioneers, 3 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Feats Don't Fail Me Now (Audio CD)
With their unique merging of blues, gospel, country, boogie, soul, funk and rhythm and blues, Little Feat rank as one of the most original innovators of an ironical and intelligent roots-rock. Little Feat's emergence on the music scene coincided with rock music's change of direction, led by The Band, towards tradition. In fact, Little Feat, like The Band, were one of the few groups who took the dignified approach of preserving their music as an 'alternative' form as opposed to insisting it be exploited for record company gain.

Little Feat's fluid and elegant form - which bridges The Band and the Doobie Brother's - reaches its apex on the brilliant, if slightly uneven, 'Feats Don't Fail Me Now' (1974). The sound on the album is distinctly funkier than on their previous releases which reflects the growing over-riding influence of keyboardist Bill Payne.

The superb 'Skin It Back', 'Rock And Roll Doctor', 'Oh Atlanta', and the frenetic gospel of the title track, is sophisticated and intelligent music played by an accomplished set of musicians. Lead vocalist and guitarist Lowell George's neurosis is consecrated in the congas and organ driven final medley 'Tripe Face Boogie'. It was a neurosis that was subsequently to become justified as Payne and Paul Barrere, their new guitar player, gradually marginalized George following the albums release.

The sound of Little Feat, particularly on 'Feats', is original if at times bizarre, but always interesting.


Ptooff!
Ptooff!
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £9.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneers of the British underground, 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Ptooff! (Audio CD)
Alongside Pink Floyd, the Deviants were perhaps the most significant band of the British underground music scene of the 1960s. The Social Deviants were formed in 1966 by Mick Farren , a young militant who had been influenced by the satire of agit-prop Fugs. Farren was one of the leading counter-culture figures in London, a leading exponent of the White Panther UK, organizer and promoter of alternative nights at the UFO club, journalist and politician.

The Deviants' debut, 'Ptooff' (1967), is a fantasy of adolescent nightmares that achieves a balance between the aesthetic of trash-rock garage bands and social commentary. Farren's breathtaking gags imitate the songs of the 1920s, martial rhythms, odd riffs, falsetto, Zappa-style slapstick and the vomiting hallucinogenic blues such as the Pretty Things' riff-based 'Garbage' and the tribal and technological nightmare, 'Nothing Man'.

'Deviation Street' is the soundtrack of the underground, whilst the anthem 'I'm Coming Home' is a raw piece of proto-punk that predicted British new-wave by a decade. The Deviants sound was as daring as their politicization was complex. The Deviants approach represented a genuine challenge to the British political establishment of the era and their sound was one of the most influential in the entire history of British rock music.


Marjory Razorblade
Marjory Razorblade
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obscure British masterpiece, 3 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Marjory Razorblade (Audio CD)
Born in Derby, England, Kevin Coyne was a unique songwriter who carved out mythological stories of pathos. His vocal style was a rough kind of grumbling reminiscent of Captain Beefheart and his arrangements were spartan and bizarre - his songs often being dilapidated chants accompanied by guitar. His masterpiece, 'Marjory Razorblade' (1973), told stories of alienation, insanity and alcholism that was directly inspired by his pyschiatrist background.

'Marjory Razorblade' is a collection of twenty songs dedicated to the common people sung in a caustic and archaic style that depicts a sequence of pictures of life that evoke a drunk saloon-style boogie interpreted in the register of a vibrant shouter (for example, 'Lovesick Fool' and 'Eastbourne Ladies'), melancholy ballads of life ('Marlene' and 'Old Soldier'), an atmosphere of desolation ('Nasty'), crackling blues ('I want My Crown') and an endless gallery of surreal vignettes ('Karate King', 'Dog Latin', 'Good Boy', 'Chicken Wing') that culminate in 'House On The Hill'.

In the heart of Coyne's music are the blues of the Delta allied to the 'ship of fools' theme common to English literature. 'Marjory Razorblade' is a conscientiously passionate and impetuous work that is one of of the all-time masterpieces to have emerged from the British Isles.


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