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Reviews Written by
M. Fantino (San Francisco, California USA)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars songs from the floor, 8 July 2004
This review is from: Pre [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Circlesquare's Pre-Earthquake Anthem fits snugly in the lexicon of the Output Records sound. This unusual record sounds mildly apocalyptic, vaguely narcoleptic, and highly foreboding. The title itself suggests the doom of an impending earthquake. And that imagined catastrophe is the climax that every song aches for, like there is some invisible build-up conjured by Circlequare's hypnotic slow-motion electro-funk. "Just wait here for disaster comes" warns Circlesquare.
As far as I can ascertain, Circlesquare is mostly one person, named March21, who has a comforting vocal style sounding like he recorded this album real late at night when everyone else was asleep. A shouting whisper.
The strangest part of the record is All Sleepers. Deeply infectious, this one can worm its way into your head and remain there. But there is something strangely familiar about it. 1970's Glam-Boy David Essex's one-hit "Rock On" seems to haunt this song, in melody and spooky chorus punctuated by the yelps of "Hey!" and "Rock + Roll". I have played the two songs together and find it hard to believe this a coincidence. I think Circlesquare's March21 is doing this on purpose. Like it's some sort of strange clue. As if it is "Rock On (part two)". Or a weird joke. But, as baffled as I am by it, it hardly matters because it's an excellent song, both of 'em.
Non-Revival Alarm is the central peak of the album, and can be isolated as its best song. Though, Pre-Earthquake Anthem can be seen as one big-long song, Non-Revival Alarm is the catchy part. Especially with the "ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba". If Trevor Jackson were Phil Spector, this would be his Ronettes. Though, I don't know what Trevor Jackson's real role in this album is. I think he produces most of the bands on his label, however all of Circlequare's credits tend to lean to March21.

Price: £3.52

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars phantasmagoria, 23 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Echoes (Audio CD)
You can't go wrong with The Rapture. Of the disco-punk movement, they and Radio 4 are at the top of the heap.
This has been a highly anticipated album. Little leaks of songs have been released here and there for the last several months. DFA had put out a number of fantastic 12" singles that I have been able to snatch up while I was waiting and the Yes New York compilation contains the glorious new vamped-up version of Olio.
Is it any real coincidence that both Blondie and Siouxsie had songs called (The) Rapture? You can hear elements of both that New York disco that Blondie was doing and that spaced out goth that Siouxsie was sculpting back in the day. But, if you can stomach a few more references, what really stands out to me with this album in particular and their two earlier ones is the following scenario: What if Robert Smith stepped up and volunteered his vocals to Joy Division after Ian Curtis ceased to be? Imagine that cusp, where New Order split off and continued with the anxiety Joy Division had but cloaked in a soothing atmosphear of early electronica. I know it's a lot to consider, but I can hear all of that and Robert Smith circa Faith or Pornography.
All that said, it is unfair for me, just a fan, to heap all of this mystique onto a band like The Rapture. If nothing else, Echoes proves that this band is responsible for it's own dynamics.
Now onto the tracks (or, a few of the ones I like best):
Olio has grown tremendously since The Rapture's first album. Listen to both and after a while you will gravitate to this one.
The Coming Of Spring has the familiar "get yourself together" that they used on Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks. The rest of the song is completely different though.
House Of Jealous Lovers seems to be their hit, though I can't quite say it is better than, say Olio, or Killing. Great cow-bell though.
Killing is the best song on the album and probably one of the best songs ever made. Of the disco-punk movement, I'd say it is the best. If you don't know anything about The Rapture, buy this album just for this song alone. It's that good.
Infatuation is haunting, melancholy and will stay with you in your head for the rest of the day.
Echoes as an album is built up of contrasts, the band seem to be able to do lots of different musical styles but the most interesting thing about it is it blends together so nicely. You hardly notice when one style changes to another.
I buy albums all the time but this one is the best I have picked up in several months.

Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.98

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds familiar, 7 Sept. 2002
This review is from: Breathe (Audio CD)
Leaves have all the ingredients to make them a sensation. They come from Reykjavík, Iceland, in a time when it is well understood that all good rock is coming from the northern lands (Sigur Rós, also from Iceland; Sahara Hotnights, (International) Noise Conspiracy/Refused, The Hives, Kent, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, all from Sweden). And they have a great one-word name.
I was very excited to get their debut, Breathe. I ordered it from overseas in order to be one of the first Americans in-the-know. I must say, I am a little disappointed. Just a little. Still, I recommend this album, and I will try to tell you why.
Their opening track is I Go Down. A sonic wonder instantly conjuring memories of Thom Yorke's falsettos (before they became legendary). The song builds beautifully, the electric-guitar work and strings weave the way we all liked Sigur Ros' meanderings, yet the acoustic expands out like so many Coldplay songs. If the whole album were like this my star rating would be noticeably higher.
But, unfortunately, it seems Leaves leaves short where they imply to be taking us. Overall, it is a very listenable album, but all the while one cannot ignore almost obvious tributes to The Verve (without the life-changing lyrics) and Radiohead (without actually blowing our minds away) and furthermore, British contemporaries can be cited: Lorien, British Sea Power, and Doves... to name a few.
Still, these Leaves influences, while perhaps deliberate, certainly overdone by a legion of other bands, with these guys it feels almost right. It's as if these Thom Yorke's and Richard Ashcroft echoes emerge layer by layer by a sort of alchemic hocus-pocus.
There is a bonus track that evokes the ethereal fuzz-grunge epic of their fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós, though, less angelic, less magnificent. In fact, the vocals sound more Dave Gahan in his People Are People style of singing.
I guess what I am trying to say is Breathe is a good album, I'm not going to sell it secondhand, it sounds good ... it just seems like I've heard it before.

In My Place - [Digipack]
In My Place - [Digipack]
Offered by CDandVinyl
Price: £5.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Flashback, 28 Aug. 2002
Coldplay seem to still have all the ingredients that made them so tasty back in 1999. Unfortunately, the contemporary music audience has deemed them the weaklings of rock. I blame the industry for overspinning "Yellow", not the band who made it. In any event, Coldplay seem very aware of our expectations, this single starts off with crisp, pounding drums and cymbals, stark and heavy. Then, once Chris Martin starts his somber and delicate tale, it all comes back in a wave of memory. This is still Coldplay. They are still good. Just don't let them get overplayed,again, for our sakes.

The Smiths
The Smiths
Price: £4.24

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Debut, 8 Oct. 2001
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
The Smiths have (and have had for as long as I can remember) such a bizarre following. I admit, I was once one of them, the followers. I, like them, had all the albums and singles on vinyl, and I memorized all the lyrics, I had an all too big poster of Morrissey on my wall, too big for a straight guy like me, etc. etc.
I still like this album, though I never upgraded to CD as I have with the obvious ones (The Queen Is Dead, Meat Is Murder, Strangeways Here We Come). But what I like so much about this album is the rawness. Especially on Miserable Lie. Miserable Lie is more seething and demanding than possibly anything they have ever done since as a band. In Miserable Lie (and Still Ill), one can hear the heavier influences that Morrissey and Marr were always so vocal about; New York Dolls, Warsaw (later, Joy Division), and Sparks.
A year later, The Smiths released a 45rpm with Sandie Shaw in Morrissey's place and The Smiths behind her, Hand In Glove b/w I Don't Owe You Anything. A fantastic rarity. But, here is where it all started. And, so should you if you don't quite know the Smiths yet.

Can Our Love...
Can Our Love...
Price: £10.06

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music To Boil Water To, 7 Oct. 2001
This review is from: Can Our Love... (Audio CD)
Tindersticks are not for everybody. The music they swirl is most certainly melancholy, but not at all depressing. Lead singer, Stuart Staples has the most quivering, fragile, mumbling, vibrating baritone you are ever likely to hear. His voice sounds like it is about to crack at any moment and that sound, even though it will be beautiful, will break your heart. And it will sink right into the music, which sounds a lot like something Burt Bacharach might come up with, if he were less distant.
I remember getting into the Tindersticks years ago, back in 1994, when there was a lull in Nick Cave releases, and Stuart Staples was a common antidote for such occasions (back before we had a more subdued Nick Cave). And I remember liking them, but eventually getting tired of them. This album, Can Our Love... changes those determinations. It is clear that both the Tindersticks and myself have matured enough over the resulting seven years.
I think it's really a perfect album. It's the kind you can play on a rainy day, and cook pasta so that the windows steam up, and let it play over and over. Every now and then, repeat songs #4 and #8 (Can Our Love... and Chilitetime) because they are worth repeating.

Make It Easy on Yourself
Make It Easy on Yourself

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Album, 16 July 2001
My Uncle worked for Burt Bacharach, in some capacity, and through that connection, I have been able to see him twice, and grow up with his songs in one way or another. Though, most of my schooling with Burt Bacharach was deliberate. I have searched him out and always been pleased. There are so many albums to choose from, but I like this one because it's really heartbreaking. I tend to put this one on when I am in love or heartbroken. It seems to work for both occasions (for which I am always one or the other).
The title track is sung by Bacharach himself instead of one of his slick hired voices that tend to trap the song in a particular era, his vocals, at least in that song are pretty powerful, and full of depth and range. A terribly sad song.
The lushness and velvetiness that his scores have, particularly songs like I'll Never Fall In Love Again and This Guy's In Love With You make you just want to crawl into them and wrap them around you like a blanket.
This is cozy, comforting music.

Offered by Rikdev Media
Price: £2.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great., 17 Nov. 2000
This review is from: JJ72 (Audio CD)
I haven't felt this excited about an album since picking up the Pixies' Come On Pilgrim (and again when The Stone Roses had their debut). This one couldn't have come at a better time, I had the same five stale CD's in my player for weeks and everyday, I'd get up, put on my slippers and stand in front of my towering CD collection with the blankest of blank stares. It seems, for me anyway, that I have outplayed everything. Scary, huh.
I picked this one up many times at the store simply because the cover looked a little Joy Divisionesque. That's not a good enough hunch to go on, I know. But, as it turns out, JJ72's debut is quite a gem. It has a very friendly and cozy brit-pop feel, like Radiohead's Pablo Honey, and has the obscurity of a hidden secret ('cept in the U.K., where they are the biggest thing since ... hair).
The songs are instantly seductive and catchy, with underlying lyrics that make you wonder what's wrong with your life. Each song has a very autumnal aura to it, like they are beautiful fire-colored leaves fallen from your favorite childhood tree. There's not a bad song on the whole album.
I have the feeling they will become quite big in the rest of the world too, soon enough (certainly Japan). If I were you, I'd pick up this album now, so, later, when they are gigantic, you can say you were there first.

Kid A - (Book & CD)
Kid A - (Book & CD)
Offered by cdbear1
Price: £11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars (Blank Space Available), 15 Oct. 2000
This review is from: Kid A - (Book & CD) (Audio CD)
There is something about Radiohead, they just seem to be able to do what needs being done. Kid A, the long awaited (three year) follow up to what many call the best album of all time, OK Computer, measures up uniquely as the progression of all their previous albums. At first listen, one eyebrow raises. Does anybody really like a Radiohead album on first listen? I hated The Bends when it came out, then I loved it, I badmouthed OK Computer when it came out and have since, in repent, decided to shave a few years off my life for such blasphemy (those few years will be donated to the lifespan of the album, so, if my calculations are correct, OK Computer will fall from favor in the year 2388 plus three years from me, so that puts it at 2391...). So, am I really a good judge, a worthwhile reviewer? No. But, you are reading anyway.
I am of the to-understand-Kid-A-one-must-understand-OK-Computer school of thought. I believe that all of Radiohead's releases, album releases anyway, are concept albums, and, furthermore, I believe that you can string them all together like popcorn on a string. They exist simultaneously as the past present and future of what we all can identify with, as my friend puts it, "I wasamwill-be here". If Pablo Honey (the seeds were sewn then) was about feeling isolated, different, alone, unwanted, unheard, the central character was using his one true gift of observation (that's why we all liked it so much). Then, that character moves on to The Bends, as the title suggests, the pain due to coming up too fast. That can be interpreted in many ways, and fame being only one of them, but I think, more devastatingly, our hero gets the bends just by getting up in the morning, coming up from the sea of dreams too fast, the pain of existence in a cruel and uncaring universe. In The Bends, our hero notices that the fake-plastic world is not quite all right, but through his reports (to us) he seems to be the only one who notices, all the madness, and he feels himself sinking in the quicksand, and smiling-strangers reply to his pleas for help cheerfully, they say, "We cannot help you, you are on your own..". Then, we make it to OK Computer, where man-vs.-a machine-like-society. The same ones responsible for the mini-malls and chain-conveniences, to make life better, easier (fitter, happier, more productive). OK Computer is where our wild animal is beaten and trained to heal, sit, stand, smile, all the while with fear in his eyes, remembering the training and the freedom only too well. If OK Computer was training/taming man the animal, then Kid A is the domesticated, subdued, behaved result.
Kid A, on first few listens sounds a lot like AIR (French Band). While AIR has more of a seventies backdrop to their scores, Kid A is pure NOW. And, while AIR is dreamy and free, Kid A is panicky. Kid A is said to be the first cloned person, reborn into place, still in the shell of another. What an idea!
Anyway, the songs are great, textured and layered and thick and gooey. Everything In It's Right Place picks up right where we left off, full of lethargic anxiety, National Anthem is just fantastic, complete with horns. How To Disappear Completely is acoustic and sweet like several of Radiohead's B-sides, with the lulling lyrics "I'm not here, this isn't happening". Optimistic is anything but, well, it's rich in sarcasm at least. Idioteque is chock full of trademark Thom Yorke falsettos, bridge chorus's, and strange mix of yodeling, screaming and slurring. Morning Bell is Bostonian, it seems. And the lush strings in Motion Picture Soundtrack make for a wonderful ending.
You don't have to like this album, but you really should. Oh, yeah, be sure to tear apart the plastic packaging to find the secret hidden prize!

Spine of God
Spine of God

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore The Cover Art (if you can), 1 Sept. 2000
This review is from: Spine of God (Audio CD)
Spine Of God and Tab...25 are all you really need quench that strange psychedelic, heavy metal Monster Magnet thirst. Their subsequent albums lacked all those glorious rough spots, I think, but maybe I'm wrong. This album has all those elements that have become their trademark sound. I used to describe Monster Magnet in this way: Monster Magnet are to metal, what The Butthole Surfers are to punk-rock. Both bands rely heavier on psychedelia, than anything else. Imagine Pink Floyd in Pompeii while Mt. Vesuvius explodes and vomits lava all over the place. I saw Monster Magnet about 6 or 7 years ago in a tiny smoke filled club. All I could remember, really, aside from them sounding very much like they did on this album, was that there was a Caveman in the audience. I guy dressed up as a Caveman thrashing about in his Flinstone garb. It seemed fitting.

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