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Elizabeth Gershwin "Beth" (Maryland)

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Metal Box
Metal Box

5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Influential, 4 July 2014
This review is from: Metal Box (Audio CD)
Metal Box, first released in 1979, would prove to be one of the defining albums of that era, influencing a lengthy list of bands, creating a vast, expansive new musical genre known as ‘post-punk’ in the process. Public Image Limited have a sound which is entirely their own, although many bands have tried (unsuccessfully) to copy the trademark PiL sound, which was originally characterised Jah Wobble’s heavy, prominent basslines and Keith Levene’s completely distinctive style of playing guitar.

On ‘Metal Box’, PiL do not convey the message “we are a band, in a studio, recording an album, going through the motions”, but rather, create something far more organic, and with far more spontaneity, energy, intensity and authenticity than most bands can hope to achieve in a lifetime. This was achieved primarily by an obvious openness to both experimentation and exploration of a variety of different types of music.

This is evident from the moment that ‘Albatross’ kicks in, an intimidating, post-punk colossus which brilliantly showcase the distinctive prominent basslines and piercing guitars which Jah Wobble and Keith Levene respectively were known for. Oddly, the three staple members of the band at this time chose to use a variety of drummers for Metal Box, including Levene himself, but this certainly didn’t affect the overall cohesion of the album.

‘Memories’ takes up a much faster pace, an expertly blended fusion of a disco beat, and the trademark Levene guitar sound, whilst ‘Swan Lake’ (a.k.a. ‘Death Disco’) is easily one of the album highlights, a lament to Lydon’s recently deceased Mother. It is the same disco/post-punk fusion that came to characterise PiL’s early sound, a sound which is immediately identifiable as being PiL.

‘Poptones’, for this reviewer, is the highlight of the album, sublimely melancholic, genius, from the understated poetic lyrics to the dub-reggae, prominent bassline. ‘Poptones’ is poignant, weirdly affecting and easily one of PiL’s most memorable songs, and the almost eight minute length adds to the sense of it being a spontaneous, organic creation.

‘Careering’ manages to evoke a sense of threat and menace, being both moody and strangely hypnotic. The band’s ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ performance of this song was electrifying and memorable, whilst ‘No Birds’ could, alongside the back catalogue of Throbbing Gristle, be where Industrial music began.

‘Graveyard’ is a short, sharp burst of post-punk, unpretentious, with an unceremonious ending, whilst ‘The Suit’ sees Lydon in scathing form, vocally menacing, his lyrics high in the mix, the music understated. ‘Bad Baby’, heavy with synths, evokes the same sense of threat which is so central to this album.

‘Socialist’ is much more fast-paced, but is repetitive, claustrophobic and yet still distinctively, utterly PiL. The same oppressive feel is also evident on ‘Chant’, which sees Lydon in the same ominous vocal form, backed by clattering drums and foreboding Hammond organs.

‘Radio 4’ manages to be a spectacular closer for the album, synth-laden, with a cold beauty evocative of PiL. It is a memorable masterpiece, charismatic, even in it’s lack of vocals and drums, intermittently bass-heavy. This track takes on a life of it’s own, like a character on it’s own terms, being all at once majestic, futuristic, atmospheric and dramatic.

Taking into consideration all of the above, it goes without saying that PiL, in their original incarnation at least, were an epochal band, capable of very, very great things. Perhaps they didn’t realise this at the time, perhaps they did, it doesn’t actually matter. What does matter is that this, and several other of their albums, spawned an authentic sound, mood and genre. They had a love of experimentation and an open-minded approach to making music which is scarcely seen, which is why they were one of the defining bands of their age. ‘Metal Box’ is their ‘Ulysses’, a vast, seemingly impenetrable landscape, but one which changes the enlightened listener.


First Issue
First Issue
Price: £4.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic debut, 4 July 2014
This review is from: First Issue (Audio CD)
Public Image Limited are a band who have gone from strength to strength in terms of ideas, experimentation and exploration of different styles, but listening to their self-titled debut gives great insight into where it all began, and just how good they were right from their inception.

As an introduction, ‘Theme’ is fiercely anti-mainstream, vintage PiL, from squalling Keith Levene guitars, to prominent and hypnotic bass-lines from Jah Wobble. Over all of this, John Lydon voice is shrill, opining: “I wish I could DIE!” This is not for mainstream listeners or casual music fans, obviously. John Lydon as a frontman was all about creating challenging albums, and he found, in Levene and Wobble, two skilful musicians who perfectly complimented his authentic, cliché-busting vision.

Fearlessness is the order of the day on ‘Religion’ parts one and two. The first version is a spoken word diatribe aimed at zealots and hypocrites, the second is the musical equivalent of the same poem. It’s a powerhouse of a song, scathing and provocative, featuring one of Lydon’s best lyrics and easily some of Keith Levene’s most superb guitar work, absolutely stratospheric. As a subject matter, Lydon takes to deconstructing religious hypocrisy in the same that he critiqued the monarchy or record labels when he was in the Sex Pistols. Simultaneously, the importance of Jah Wobble’s style of playing bass in the overall history of post-punk cannot be emphasised enough, and he is in top form in ‘Religion II’. Discordant pianos provide a brief intermission halfway through the song, before Lydon launches a further assault on religion, (“cheaply priced”). He is full of scorn and fury before sneering: “It’s all falling to bits, gloriously!”

The drums are powerful and rapid throughout most of this album, particularly on Annalisa, where the trademark PiL sound plays out to a throat-shredding vocal from John Lydon and an energetic, fast tempo.

The title track of the album is another of PiL’s many treasures, iconic and probably the closest to chart-friendly that PiL ever were. This is predominantly due to the guitars of Keith Levene, who sounds amazingly sharp and on top form, but the overall production of ‘Public Image’ is excellent, with Wobble’s omniscient bass-line complimenting Levene’s guitars like they were made for each other. There are more classic ‘Lydonisms’ on show, too. Lyrics such as “Two sides to every story/somebody had to stop me/I’m not the same as when I began/It’s not a game of Monopoly” are John Lydon at his best, defiant and challenging in the way that every great lead singer should be.

‘Low-life’ contains one of Jah Wobble’s very best bass-lines, and his importance/influence in the story of post-punk cannot be overestimated, nor can the way in which Wobble and Levene perfectly complimented each other, a striking union of reggae and Kraut-rock influences. ‘Low-life’, an up-tempo song, sounds potent even today, and Keith Levene’s guitar sounds all at once energetic, lively and sharp.

‘Attack’, to this reviewer, sounds iconic, mainly due to aforementioned guitars, and the song features an echo on Lydon’s vocal, to striking effect. The song is played furiously, zealously, and the overall result is effective. Throughout it all, there is an exceptional, unfailing drumbeat from the album’s unnamed drummer(s).

For something ostensibly so spontaneous and organic, ‘Fodderstompf’ is a genius blend of a disco beat and a reggae bass-line, alongside a series of amusing ad-libs and the refrain of “We only wanted to be loved.” One of the band snidely jokes about wanting to finish the album in the minimum amount of time, but this surely must be in jest, because the overall quality of this album, including ‘Fodderstompf’, is exceptional. Driven by the bass once more, ‘Fodderstompf’ is strangely danceable, but at the same time cold and detached in the way that most post-punk songs were. Nevertheless, it is a rhythmic, strangely beguiling end to this impressive debut album

There is a definite air of artistic freedom to the album, a propulsion, a momentum. There is also an overall cohesion to the album which many bands fail to achieve. The album is like a musical collage of styles and ideas, everything that The Sex Pistols could and should have been, had they not become a novelty circus sideshow. With Public Image Limited, John Lydon found an outlet for the many quirky or authentic ideas that he did not get to fully embrace with the Sex Pistols. To create an album as exceptional as this three or four albums into a career would have been an achievement, for Public Image Limited to create this as their debut, at the tender ages they were, is astounding. This makes this album one of the most dynamic debuts in musical history. It showed all of the promise that the original line-up of Public Image Limited held as a band.


The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground
Price: £7.76

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Velvet Underground At Their Peak, 4 July 2014
This review is from: The Velvet Underground (Audio CD)
The Velvet Underground’s self-titled 1969 debut album is an often soft, melodic, sometimes even soothing affair, with an often childlike quality to the lyrics and music.

‘Candy says’ is a great example of The Velvet Underground Par Excellence. It is sublime, melancholic and wistful in the same way as ‘Sunday Morning’, insightful and knowing in the same way as ‘Femme Fatale’. It’s subject matter, for non VU fans, is the famous Andy Warhol cohort Candy Darling, a person who came to be defined by her transsexualism, yet eventually transcended it with her radiant beauty. It is only right that a song about such a fascinating human being should also be fascinating, and ‘Candy Says’ does not disappoint.

As album openers go, it is beautiful, memorable, timeless. The simplicity of it helps make it timeless. The music surrounding Doug Yule’s vocal amounts to few simple chords and very basic drums, allowing the stunningly sincere vocal to be the main focus. The song fascinates this reviewer, because it is uplifting yet wistful, in the major key, but oddly poignant. It is in Lou Reed’s lyrics, however, that the real beauty appears. “Candy says, I’ve come to hate my body/And all that it requires in this world/Candy says, I’d like to know completely, what other souls discreetly talk about”, before going on to mention bluebirds flying, ending the chorus with the question: “What do you think I’d see, if I could walk away from me?” Candy Darling was one of Lou Reed’s fixations, along with other beautiful enigmas such as Nico, and in this song, he has captured her tortured persona succinctly, and with such effortless articulacy that it’s a genuine master-class in song-writing.

In contrast, ‘What Goes On’ is a Beatles-esque, poppy number with some genuinely great guitar riffery and some Hammond organs. It is similar in tempo to ‘Run Run Run’, and boasts the same slightly ‘rough around the edges’ production values which were the trademark of Velvet Underground, a precursor to Punk music.

‘Some Kinda Love’ contains more classic Lou Reed lines such as “Like a dirty French novel, combines the absurd with the vulgar”, and also sounds like vintage VU, whilst boasting fairly simplistic and repetitive drums/guitar. Reed’s voice is always understated.

‘Pale Blue Eyes’ is undoubtedly another VU anthem, featuring simplistic, childlike lyrics, but all the more effective for it. The stripped back guitars, and tambourine, along with Reed’s unpretentious vocal give the entire song an almost nursery rhyme feel. It is soft and subtle in the same manner as ‘Candy Says’.

‘Jesus’ takes a similar approach, short, effective and very unassuming, but with a touch of Reed’s often endearing vulnerability: “Help me find my proper place, help me in my weakness”. Vulnerability would be a theme later explored on ‘Berlin’, to a far greater extent.

‘Beginning To See The Light’ is another of the more ‘catchy’ VU efforts, sounding like mid-sixties era Beatles, just slightly coarser. It has great melodies, and is genuinely infectious.

‘I’m Set Free’ contains some truly beautiful guitar work, soft vocals and yet more of Maureen Tucker’s unimposing drumming style. Two minutes in, a beautiful guitar riff begins, dreamlike and very much characteristic of the era – but still great to listen to.

‘That’s The Story Of My Life’, at only two minutes and four seconds, is the shortest song on the album, but still manages to provide more classic VU melodies and the trademark lyrical approach of Lou Reed, the approach of looking back at something, usually with a certain amount of regret or sadness. Who cannot relate? Even before his recent death Lou Reed was critically lauded for having authenticity and a lyrical voice all of his own. That lyrical voice is strong throughout this entire album.

‘The Murder Mystery’ is easily the most unusual song on the album, and sprawls out for nearly nine minutes. It features Doors-esque Hammond organs and shared, double-tracked vocals from all the VU members. It’s sound has more than a hint of late 1960’s psychedelia to it and is also unlike any other song on this album. Velvet Underground’s musical output could by and large be separated into two groups: accessible, melodic, sweet and brilliantly crafted short songs, or large, chaotic, angular and hostile epics; think ‘Heroin’ or ‘Sister Ray’. This song definitely falls into the latter category, with distorted vocals and a general disorder to it which creates a feeling of spontaneity. Very few bands manage to create this feeling of ‘spontaneity’, the feeling that they’re not just a band going through the motions. Public Image Limited were one, Velvet Underground, however, laid the blueprint for that kind of artistic, free-expression kind of approach. Their overall artistic vibe can of course originally be traced back to Andy Warhol, but Lou Reed was also largely responsible for some of VU’s most striking music.

The album ends on ‘After Hours’, in which Maureen Tucker takes over vocals, accompanied by an understated acoustic guitar. It is the second shortest song, and Tucker’s vocals are also low-key, with a laid-back, ‘folksy’ style which has been emulated hundreds of times since.

Even though this is not the classic Velvet Underground line-up which also included John Cale, (and of course, who could forget Nico) this is still a hugely worthwhile album for many reasons. It’s frequent simplicity and lack of pretension are at the heart of it. The lyrical talent of Lou Reed also shines brightly here. He had a unique lyrical voice which managed to convey a certain mood and tone. This was evident throughout his career, and listening to albums such as this will remind the listener of just what a great talent he was. Musically, the number of bands influenced by the Velvet Underground is huge and this album can certainly be counted amongst their many notable achievements.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2014 6:26 PM GMT


Back To Black
Back To Black
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars She Is Sadly Missed, 12 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Back To Black (Audio CD)
Years after Amy's death, I still listen to this and marvel at the texture of Amy's voice, the depth, the range, the musicality, the charisma. I also marvel at the wit, humour and kitchen sink reality of some of her songs. I wonder, sadly, what music she would have gone on to offer the world if she had not died when she did.

There are obvious highlights here, from the fantastically catchy 'Rehab', to the wonderful and iconic 'Back To Black', but there is also no obvious 'filler', rather, every song here has a character and mood of it's own. The witty 'Addicted' and 'Me and Mr. Jones' both have charima and humour, 'realness' and vivacity.

This album was landmark, but that scarcely needs to be said - a listen to it all the way through will convince anyone who appreciates brilliant vocals. They are often deep, sometimes even earthy, yet always perfectly compliment the array of musical instruments which appear here. Amy is sadly missed by her fans, yet this album will undoubtedly be discovered by future generations.


Approaches to Psychology
Approaches to Psychology
by William E. Glassman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Thorough Overview, 12 Jun. 2014
For those who are studying psychology at either High School or University level, this will prove a very worthwhile textbook. It covers the main psychological approaches, ranging from the biological approach to the Humanistic approach, and goes into each of these approaches in a level of considerable depth. Although not comprehensive (no psychology textbook could be), this textbook is very useful in that it describes everything a clear, concise, understandable way. It also has 'further consideration' suggestions after every section, suggesting thinking activities which will be of benefit to the student of psychology.

In conclusion, this textbook provides a great introduction and background to many areas of psychology, and also manages to be articulate, concise and understandable. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in psychology.


Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story [DVD] (2010)
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story [DVD] (2010)
Dvd ~ Eddie Izzard
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Thought-provoking, 17 Nov. 2013
This DVD, made after Eddie Izzard's 2003 comeback tour, charts the life of the distinctive comedian, right through from early childhood, through schooldays, the death of his mother, his early forays into performance art, through to comedy and acting.

It is fairly obvious that Izzard is a remarkable man, if only for his indisputable sense of self. His courage also knows no bounds, his perseverance admirable. How else could he have succeeded in the traditionally macho-fuelled world of comedy whilst dressing in women's clothing? His `cross-dressing' is well documented, and he has spoken about it at length, yet he has transcended it. His destruction of gender boundaries raises some interesting questions regarding gender and sexuality.

He enjoys wearing clothing which is traditionally regarded as female, yet he is attracted to females - a concept which many find difficult to grasp. Why question it though? Fundamentally, it does no harm to anyone, so why should it matter? To Eddie Izzard, it doesn't, and he has lived his life as many never do - free from the ridiculous restrictions which society places on the individual man or woman.

His comedy itself is also well-documented in this excellent short film, right from his early days doing gigs at Edinburgh festival in 1981, and particularly the sublimely surreal nature of it, most notably in his infamous `Raised By Wolves' sketch, which scaled new heights of the ridiculous.

But it's Izzard's strength of character which is most evident here. He speaks fondly of his mother and in one particularly poignant interview, fighting back tears, he laments over how his love of an audience has become a metaphor for the mother-son relationship, and how he has always strived his whole life to obtain the love of an audience, to compensate for the death of his mother early on in life. His honesty is touching.

Not content to ever rest on his laurels, however, Izzard has not settled for only one career path, and has branched out into the world of acting, and has also raised a significant amount of money for charity. Remarkably, he has also chosen to do stand-up routines in the French language, and at the time this film was made, was planning to do the same for both the German and Spanish languages!

This is a very well-made film, taking in a variety of interviews, archive footage and a mixture of light-hearted and more poignant subject matter, but it's always interesting, and frankly, creates an impressive picture of a very likeable and talented man.


Movement
Movement
Price: £4.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubled Times, Genius Transition, 17 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Movement (Audio CD)
They started their career with everything to prove: three quarters of Joy Division, in the wake of their lead singer, Ian Curtis' suicide. They rose to the challenge, and then some, channelling seemingly every bit of sadness, angst and overall magnitude of their friend's death into `Movement', coming up with an impact which would reach far beyond this album.

`Dreams Never End' begins in the major key, Peter Hook takes over vocals, and a new era is born. The song is upbeat, major chords, but gives way to `Truth', a far more threatening affair, one which would fit nicely onto `Closer', a cross between `Twenty-Four Hours' and `Decades'. The words `strange' and `lonely' are mentioned, along with the line "Some people look down on me, I hope they like what they see." This is how legends are made - albums like this make careers. With much to prove, New Order stepped up to the challenge...

Thus, `Senses' begins with the same uneasy vibe, vibrantly alive with hooky's expert and ever-present bass-lines, low synths, classically raw post-punk guitars and a muffled vocal from Bernard Sumner. The overall effect is one of unease, but glorious unease, which you can dance to, as the heavy drumbeat and bass penetrate you.

`Chosen Time' adopts a fast pace and a charismatic bass-line, if Peter Hook didn't exist, one would have to invent him. More barely discernible vocals, and the overall effect is disorientating, like that moment when you have had too many drinks and the room starts to spin, even though your eyes are closed. But it all remains oh so gloriously danceable, vital, cutting edge, sounding futuristic even now.

`ICB', once rumoured to have stood for `Ian Curtis Buried', plays out like classic Joy Division, and would fit easily onto any of the Joy Division albums. Martin Hannett's production cannot be faulted anywhere on this album, least of all not here, where the sounds of the future are being made, and the notebooks are being hastily scribbled in, as a thousand bands take note. Moody, futuristic, it is everything Ian Curtis could have wanted, and more.

`The Him' sounds huge; theatrical, but also classically New Order, rather than Joy Division. All of the elements, ranging from Stephen Morris' unfailing, rhythmic drumbeats, to the heavy synths, to Peter Hook's insistent bass-lines, provide the soundtrack to post-punk. It sounds epic, swelling. So innately do they create a mood and a feel that one almost has to wonder how good they would have been had Ian Curtis lived. Magnificent, I should imagine.

Which is an interesting supposition upon listening to `Doubts Even Here', sounding so much like Joy Division, this reviewer could almost imagine Curtis singing the vocal to it. It bears similarity to both `Atmosphere' and `Decades', but copies neither, rather, it is it's own entity, entirely authentic and, ultimately, moving. The production and musicianship are both sublime, Peter Hook's vocals are muted, almost distorted, almost as if trying not to distract from the music itself.

`Denial' picks up a fast pace again, and is more classic New Order, rather than classic Joy Division, all prominent synths, sharp, crisp drumbeats and a feeling of claustrophobia which was central to the New Order sound, and the post-punk sound in general.

This is a tremendous album, and whilst it is characterised by many of the same features as either of Joy Division's two albums, it is an altogether different beast, more synth-laden, a step closer towards the invention of dance music but utterly, completely without pretension, and possessing every ounce of the intensity and character Ian Curtis would have wanted.


Santogold
Santogold
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting mixture of styles, 17 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Santogold (Audio CD)
Santogold's self-titled album is a curious blend of various musical styles, just poppy enough to be pop, but just adventurous enough to sit comfortably outwith the mainstream.
Her vocals are strong, right from opening track `L.E.S. Artistes' and are backed by keyboards and guitars; the song sounds fresh, contemporary.
`You'll Find A Way (Version One)', meanwhile, is an up-tempo dance track in much the same way as `Shove It', which also has a definite Jamaican influence, featuring prominent horns and a definite `dub-reggae' mood.
`Say A-ha' is an obvious highlight on this album, a modern classic, sultry, up-tempo, gloriously danceable, whilst `Creator' embraces the genres of Dubstep, Grime and Electro. They are so many different musical styles explored here it's almost difficult to keep up, yet this doesn't damage the overall cohesion of the album.
`My Superman' and `Light Out' are far more laid-back, embracing a far less intense sound than on the rest of the album, but ultimately lack backbone, but `Starstruck' and `Unstoppable' are back to the same 'electro' groove, the former leaning towards Dubstep, the latter being more reggae-tinged.
`I'm A Lady' slows the pace of the album down again, but is sufficiently catchy so as not to be too unimposing, whereas `Anne' is a surefire album highlight, featuring sultry, echoing vocals and a hypnotic electronic beat. This is carried through into `You'll Find A Way (Version Two)', which is another highlight, embracing yet more electro-pop beats and an intense, sultry vocal.
This album's strongest attributes are an exploration of a variety of musical styles, coupled with a definite dance-floor sensibility.


Pegasus Confirmed
Pegasus Confirmed
Price: £2.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and well-written, 28 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Pegasus Confirmed (Kindle Edition)
The second novel from Colin Geer follows the story of the Mcdonald family and their unusual experience when they encounter a young girl in the Highlands who is not all she seems...

'Fiona' is like someone from another time and place - literally, and what follows is a novel which is part science fiction, part romance and part historical, creating an unusual blend which is both distinctive and interesting. There are many descriptions of beautiful Scottish locations and the characterisation is excellent. Colin Geer creates characters which the reader actually cares about and I kept reading to discover the fate of the central character.

For anyone interested in the subject of time travel this is also a fascinating read, and Colin Geer has clearly researched the topic in some depth. Also, the emotions described are realistic, the characters are believable and the plot develops masterfully, with pace and suspense.

This distinctive and unusual novel is well worth a read.


Rewind The Film
Rewind The Film
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £16.55

43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Manics Masterpiece, 17 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Rewind The Film (Audio CD)
This is not a rock and roll album. I also maintain that it bears little resemblance to any other Manic Street Preachers album, except perhaps `This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours', and there are still differences.
The album opens with `This Sullen Welsh Heart', and Nicky Wire proclaiming "I don't want my children to grow up like me", setting an immediately reflective tone which is in place for most of the album. This song also features vocals from Lucy Rose, a delicately-voiced, critically-acclaimed singer from Warwickshire whose vocals here perfectly compliments James Dean Bradfield's, whilst also suiting Nicky Wire's soul-searching lyrics, such as "It's not enough to succeed, others must fail". Dissatisfaction, a common Manics theme, is here in abundance.
`Show Me The Wonder', the first single from the album has definitely grown on me. To begin with, I wasn't entirely sure about it, and it is certainly a lot poppier and more upbeat than a lot of Manics singles, there is no denying that when they want to, the Manics can write a catchy song, albeit using lyrics about "the birthplace of the Universe". For this single, they have embraced an old, nostalgic, cabaret style sound, with plenty of trumpets. It works well, after the initial shock of hearing the manics complete departure from anything resembling their rock `n' roll/punk roots.
My personal highlight of the album was the title track. `Rewind the film' contains vocals from Richard Hawley, with James Dean Bradfield joining in approximately halfway through. I consider the song a masterpiece. Richard Hawley plays Hawaiian guitar which begins beautiful, delicately, about thirty seconds in, like some exotic flower opening. The musical arrangement here is stunning, containing viola, violin and cello, and Hawley's voice has scarcely sounded so good, deep, resonant, but also strangely beautiful, with the entire song playing out in a hazy, dreamlike way. This song contains many elements of a piece of music called `A Little Girl Lost' by David Axelrod, but the original version contained no vocals, and in my opinion, Richard Hawley's vocals lift this into classic Manics territory. The title is actually very apt, since this piece of music reminds me of a film soundtrack. It would greatly suit a David Lynch film, or perhaps a Luc Besson film.
`Builder Of Routines' starts with an immediately distinctive intro using what sounds like a Xylophone. This song contains a sad lyric about hating middle-age, and startlingly, the lyric "so tired of being 4 real". Again, this song, in the minor key, and featuring sad-sounding trumpets, conveys many of Wire's favourite themes of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and the feeling of a man trying to come to terms with getting older - something which crops up frequently on this album.
`Four Lonely Roads' is easily one of the most beautiful songs on the album, featuring vocals entirely from Cate Le Bon, a distinctively voiced Welsh singer who embraces many of the same lyrical themes as the Manics. Here, her voice is understated and pretty, towards the end accompanied by beautiful pianos. The arrangement creates a song which is simultaneously sad/beautiful, a juxtaposition which the Manics have always used to great effect. Wire's lyrics, about being `trapped in skin' and `darker hell' have been softened slightly, by using Cate Le Bon as a vocalist. It works well.
`I Miss The Tokyo Skyline' is another of Nicky Wire's travel stories, featuring a lovely piece of violin music and Wire's Love for the modernity of Tokyo and his fondness for it, encompassing the "non-communication", "emptiness" and silence. Musically, this is one of the more uplifting tracks on the album, mainly due to the enchanting violins which appear throughout.
"Anthem For A Lost Cause" a straightforward acoustic ballad, but with more violins, and more keyboards from the fantastic Loz Williams, contains more tender lyrical themes, accompanied by James' gentle acoustic guitar. "Redemption, love and departure" are mentioned as well as a "glittering prize", perhaps a sly nod towards Simple Minds, one of Nicky Wire's favourite bands. The entire song evokes a sense of loss, a common Manics theme.
Nicky Wire takes the lead vocals on `As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin)' and I maintain that he has come a long way, vocally, from the days of `Wattsville Blues'. Whilst he lacks the same vocal strength and dexterity as James, his voice is in no way unpleasant. Understated, yes, but not unattractive. More trumpets feature here, and saxophone, courtesy of Sean Read, as Nicky sings what essentially is a love song. Changed days for the Manics, but that's a good thing. Maturity brings wisdom, which Nicky possesses in abundance. This lyric also shows Wire's ability to jump from the mundane to the grandiose: "As Holy As The Roman Empire, as holy as the coffee you made for us". Sung by any other lyricist there could be a risk of this sounding awkward or stilted, but with Nicky it comes across as sincere and pure.
`There Ways To See Despair' is another minor key ballad, containing one of Nicky's most confessional lyrics on this album, but also contains an excellent guitar solo which sounds, to my ear, like something David Gilmour might play on `Dark Side Of The Moon'. This isn't a happy song, Nicky revealing that he has seen all three ways to see despair, but hinting that there is also a fourth way, which is yet to come. Perhaps Nicky was on a low when he wrote this, as there seems to be more hope for the future, elsewhere on the album. Nevertheless, the song sounds fantastic, mainly down to aforementioned guitar solo, and Sean Moore's never anything less than fantastic drumming being turned up quite high in the mix.
`Running Out Of Fantasy' is yet another of Nicky Wire's exceptionally confessional and endearingly honest lyrics, and the lyric "I'm old, I'm strange, I'm confidential" is confessional in the same tradition as, for example, `Born A Girl' or `Ready For Drowning', in fact several of the songs from `This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours". These are definitely not `throwaway' lyrics, nor could anyone ever accuse Nicky Wire of being lyrically lazy. Yes, the Manics have reached middle-age, but they have definitely not become complacent. `Running Out Of Fantasy', a wistful, bittersweet acoustic ballad show a band who are still trying to make sense of the world around them, and perhaps, like most us, struggling to do so: "The Obsession with change has bled me dry".
`Manorbier', an instrumental, has a slow introduction which builds into an uplifting and dreamlike piece of music with more of Loz Williams beautiful keyboards, as well as some soft acoustic guitar which all adds to an atmosphere of beauty - this is definitely one of the Manics most attractive and striking albums, a stark contrast to the likes of `The Holy Bible' or `Journal For Plague Lovers' which were frequently harsh and angular in the great tradition of post-punk, but `Rewind The Film' is certainly no less a work of art than those two albums.
The album closes with another of the album's highlights, the Thatcher-condemning `Thirty-year war'. It's another Manics masterpiece, in my opinion, the type of angry, scornful lyric which Nicky Wire does better than anyone, as he heaps his trademark contempt onto "Old Etonian Scum" and the establishment in general. As a fan, it is pleasing for me to know that the old fire is still there. He is older, and wiser, but nevertheless can still produce polemic better than his contemporaries. His social and political awareness puts the youngsters in today's current crop of bands to shame. This is what great art is for; not just entertainment, but challenging convention, making a point. Musically, the song begins with another nostalgic sounding trumpet solo, moving swiftly into Vangelis-style synths and then a memorable, sing-along chorus, concluding with the question "What is to be done?" Lines such as "blame the poor, praise the rich" really are vintage Manic Street Preachers.
This album is in turns poignant, wistful, reflective, angry, disillusioned, but also, strangely, there are moments of love and hope. It is curiously timeless and cannot be directly placed in a particular musical category, as it spans many different styles and uses a veritable cornucopia of musical instruments. This is part of what makes the Manics so special. They are not afraid of experimentation; there are plenty of musical instruments here - more so than on any other Manics album. What the Manic Street Preachers manage to do is make every one of their albums different to the other in some discernible way. Here, they have created a vast and impressive musical landscape, evoking a myriad of emotions, a variety of moods and a powerful sound. It must be noted that even though they are now firmly rooted in middle-age, there is not a hint of complacency about the Manic Street Preachers. They are not `going through the motions', because if they were, it would come across that way, and it doesn't. There is not a hint of `resting on their laurels' about the Manics, and long may that continue. Even though 2005's `Lifeblood' was a disappointment to me, and many other fans, it wasn't irredeemable and the lyrical themes were still interesting, but ever since then, every Manics album has been of a consistently high standard, and they still continue to explore new musical territory with every album they release. It's ironic that Nicky says in `Builder Of Routines' that he is tired of being `4 real', because as a band, that's exactly what the Manic Street Preachers continue to be.


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