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Mr. M. J. Hulme

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great country ballads, little else, 26 Sep 2002
This review is from: Demolition (Audio CD)
On the album 'Faithless Street', Ryan confesses that he "started this damn country band - 'cos punk rock is too hard to sing". Demolition is confirmation of this fact.
When I play Whiskeytown records now, I am drawn to the songs that have Ryan wearing his heart on his sleeve, backed by a more traditional country/bluesy/folky sound. On Stranger's Almanac, I play 'Avenues', 'Houses On The Hill', 'Everything I Do', and 'Somebody Remembers The Rose' - and to me, they are head and shoulders above the rest of the album because everything clicks together in a way that the 'rock' tunes don't. On Pneumonia, 'Don't Wanna Know Why', 'Jacksonvile Skyline', 'Reasons to Lie', 'Under Your Breath', and 'What The Devil Wanted' again all stand out for me. Up close, personal, simplistic but beautifully delivered songs.
Heartbreaker is Ryan's magnum opus purely because he's playing to his strengths. Guitar, vocals, minimum of overdubs, just the stripped-down beauty of a great voice singing great songs. That's all you need. This is where Gold, with the exception of 'La Cienaga' and 'Wildflowers', fails me. Much of it is overblown and recycled rock bombast without a convincing delivery.
Bottom line - I don't think Ryan can rock. I don't believe him when he has an electric six-string in his hand. I find his "rock" songs mediocre, tiresome, unconvincing and insincere. I haven't heard too many artists do a guitar and vocal ballad as well as Ryan Adams - this is high praise. I have however heard countless artists pull off a better 'rock and roll animal' persona than Ryan.
All this sums up my feelings about Demolition. Dear Chicago is phenomenally good, right up there with anything he's done in terms of quality and the way it moves me by just listening to it. If this is Ryan's template going forward, he won't go far wrong. I find the rock songs on this album amateurish and tiresome. Which makes me wonder if we shouldn't start talking about two Ryan Adams - one, the middle of the road rock and roll wannabe, and two, the fantastically gifted balladeer that has the priceless gift to touch somebody with a simple song beautifully sung in his 'drunken, bluesy whisper'.
All of which leads me to ask - will the real Ryan Adams please stand up?

Highly Evolved [Australian Import]
Highly Evolved [Australian Import]
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.96

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The next big thing, but not the long-term answer, 21 Jun 2002
The latest in a long line of bands to be whispered about and subtly namedropped into the music weeklies and glossy magazines, The Vines have been praised up within the UK music press as the 'answer' to the lack of originality in the music scene at the moment. What this album does is confirm that they do have something exciting going on, but they also have a fair way to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles, Nirvana, Big Star - the bands they clearly want to emulate.
The good points - this is a great Summer album, with a very Anglo-American feel-good edge to it. Despite comparisons to bands that inhabit the darker side of guitar-based rock, these tunes are uplifting and positive, bursting with raw energy, guitars battered to the limit, inventive bass lines and drums pushed loud in the mix, ensuring the more uptempo songs rattle along at a furious pace. Some of the vocal harmonies are a treat, invoking images of a more fashion-concious Teenage Fanclub or a much less geeky Weezer. When the Vines kick back a little (and notably on '1969'), they invite comparison with a whole host of the 1960's heroes they seek to emulate. However, this is part of the Vines' current problem.
Craig Nicholls clearly wants to be an bizarre cocktail of Lennon, Cobain and Alex Chilton - and he writes songs that possess both Cobain's mastery of dynamics ('Sunshinin') and Lennon's musical ear for the less obvious chord change (witness 'Country Yard' or the badly-titled 'Mary Jane'). Where the Vines have yet to fully evolve is in the art of writing a fully realised song. Too often, these songs lapse into a verse-chorus-verse formula, and the chorus repetition does mean that the songs lose something after a few plays.
All that said, this is a fine album and if any band is going to take rock and roll to a different place for the new millennium, this album offers evidence that the Vines are as well-placed to do so as anyone around at the moment. This is perfectly good enough for now - just don't expect anything radically new or different from it and you'll do fine.

Price: £4.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me why I liked them in the first place!, 13 May 2002
This review is from: Maladroit (Audio CD)
After waiting oh so patiently for 5 years, just to receive the 28-minute water treading exercise that was the Green album, my patience with Weezer was just about all out. Pass me the humble pie - this album reminds me what I saw in them in the first place. Apparently, Rivers Cuomo has been stockpiling songs for the last five years, and here are fourteen songs that, unlike their previous offering, have dynamics, a balance of light and shade, and some of the most catchy choruses and guitar hooks Weezer have ever offered us.
As always, the guitars crackle and fizz and feedback in just the right places, and each song cuts into the chorus just where you want it to, lifting each track higher into the stratosphere and taking you with it. The rhythm section sound far more composed with the change of bass player, and Rivers and co sound like they are having fun playing this music again. Experimentation also features on this album, with some wah-wah, differing time signatures, and a couple of tracks that border on some bizarre kind of out there rock-funk fusion. But for the most part this is one huge guitar and vocal harmony workout that is as good as anything Weezer have ever done.

Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology
Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology
Price: £6.95

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally - the anthology has arrived, 9 May 2002
For those not in the know, Uncle Tupelo have rightly or wrongly often been credited with being the pivotal band of the “” movement. Forget that pidgeonhole, this is quality rock and roll music, pure and simple. This anthology tracks their progress from ‘country-punk’ rockers through to the more measured and mellow country-rock sound as heard on their last studio album, Anodyne.
Since Uncle Tupelo split, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy have gone their separate ways – Farrar to form the mournfully introspective Son Volt, while Tweedy departed and formed Wilco, one of the most important rock bands to come out of America in the last twenty years.. Uncle Tupelo were noticeable for harnessing the creative songwriting and power of both Farrar and Tweedy, and joining them to some awesomely hard-played rock and roll. Tupelo’s debut album, ‘No Depression’ (well represented here) spawned a cult magazine with the same name, as well as the ‘’ movement that elected Jay and Jeff the high priests of this new sound. If anything, the Stooges cover on this album tells you most about the patented collision of musical genres that Uncle Tupelo blazed a trail for.
Fans of Wilco and Son Volt that want to see where it all began would be well advised to pick this up – while the sound may lack the emotional gravitas of Son Volt’s later work, and the experimentation of Wilco, it’s great to hear these once close friends harmonising and ripping the place up with some electrifying country thrashing. Similarly, fans of bands as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams or Green Day will find something here that is fresh and engaging, with enough energy to keep you buzzing long after the songs have finished. Recently, talk has been of a possible Uncle Tupelo reunion – let’s hope not, and let’s savour the magic on this disc instead.

Plastic Fang
Plastic Fang
Offered by westworld-
Price: £19.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds pretty cool to be a werewolf..., 22 April 2002
This review is from: Plastic Fang (Audio CD)
Well now, here's a thing. The allegedly 'super-cool' New York rock threesome have returned with what sounds like a concept album about the trials and tribulations of a man that becomes a werewolf... this could go one of two ways. Happily for this listener, it manages to negotiate the twin pitfalls of pretentiousness and self-indulgence that such a concept should be guilty of, and instead it goes the way of excellence.
Somewhere in the making of this album, JSBE's previously scrappy half-fragments of songs have been rounded off and finished. Rather than the reliance on random shouts of 'blues explosion!' to link together unrelated tracks, each track here has been crafted along the more conventional songwriting structures - but fans of the group will know that with the Blues Explosion, verse-chorus-verse will never sound anything like conventional.
The old influences and styles are written through this album like a stick of rock - the early rhythm and blues and rock fusion of riff-driven bands such as Booker T, Cream, Stones and Zeppelin, the power of the Who, the inventiveness and surreal lyrical preoccupations of Captain Beefheart (whose vocal delivery is becoming increasingly imitated by Jon Spencer). However, there is something unique happening beneath the influence-ridden surface that should be investigated further.
Praise is due for the production too - thunderous drumming, clear, crisp bass and the right level of lead guitar and vocals. If it weren't for the werewolf preoccupations, I'd say the group have grown up. As it is, they've merely given us one of 2002's brightest rock and roll moments so far.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new sound for one of America's great bands, 10 April 2002
This review is from: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Audio CD)
During the period following Wilco's last studio release, the excellent "Summerteeth", the band fell into dispute with their record company over the more progressive nature of this album. The result was a fractious period when it looked at times as if the album would never see the light of day, destined to reside in the dusty vaults of a major label. With a new record deal, Wilco have been able to release their most experimental work to date.
The chronology, and Wilco's development as a band, runs as follows. Release a homage to the great history of American popular country-rock music ("Being There"), and follow it up with an album that seamlessly incorporated their influences into a magical mystery tour of musical genres, halfway between "indie" rock, country and electronica without actually hitting any of these styles full on. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot builds on Summerteeth's experimentation and pushes this new style to the very limits.
Opening track "I am trying to break your heart" summarises the extensions to Wilco's sound - swirling keyboards and snippets of electronic bleeps underpin a dark, sinister love song. In the same way that Big Star's later works sounded as if they could fall apart at any moment, it's difficult to see where this track is going until the conclusion sweeps the listener headfirst into Kamera. This is much more the traditional Wilco sound, but stripped down to include a full sounding acoustic guitar that drives the rhythm along. This pretty much sets the blueprint for the tracks to come, a mixture of great rock songs with unexpected arrangements.
The masterpiece of the album has to be 'Jesus Etc.', with plaintive violins holding the minimal arrangement together while Tweedy delivers possibly his most affecting (and effective) vocal performance yet. It's one of those moments that send shivers down your spine, when everything clicks together at the same point just perfectly. Throughout the album, Jeff Tweedy's voice sounds as heartbroken and forlorn as ever, and the creative musicianship and imagination are every bit as good as you'd expect from a band boasting Tweedy and co-writer Jay Bennett (who has since left to pursue a solo career).
It's wonderful, different, challenging listen. Fans of Being There, that did not buy Summerteeth, may not welcome this change in sound with open arms, but for those of us that have lived with both albums for years, after a few listens, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot reveals itself to be every bit as great as we could have possibly hoped for. Even if Jay Bennett's departure draws an end to this band's golden era, Wilco have been good enough to leave us three of the greatest rock albums of the last twenty years to remember them by.

Hi-Fi Serious
Hi-Fi Serious
Price: £7.96

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's to A's new maturity..., 6 Mar 2002
This review is from: Hi-Fi Serious (Audio CD)
A's previous albums were always curate's eggs, part good and part bad. Their layoff since the last album, the acclaimed but unsuccessful 'Monkey Kong', has prompted some serious rethinking and soul-searching - and the results are available for all to hear. 'A' have grown up, ditched the dubious attempts at humour that marked their previous albums, and have produced a disc that crackles with raw energy and enthusiasm. The band have never sounded like they're having so much fun, and this infectious feel-good factor transfers itself to the listener, frequently leaving this one nodding his head up and down to the music.
Two points to consider; the lyrical content is still short of brilliant, and some of the studio trickery is pretty unnecessary (Took It Away being a case in point, a good song partly spoiled) but for the most part, this is a fun-loving 45-minute romp. These songs would also sound awesome live, so book tickets now!

Hollywood Town Hall
Hollywood Town Hall
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: £1.73

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where it all began..., 4 Mar 2002
This review is from: Hollywood Town Hall (Audio CD)
I never thought of myself as a country music fan - but one Saturday night back in 1992, I happened to see the Jayhawks play on a rare TV performance. The next day I bought this album and haven't looked back since.
Hollywood Town Hall is timeless American rock music. With a standard two guitars, bass and drums line-up (save for the odd organ winding its way in and out of the arrangements), three things set the Jayhawks apart from more mortal bands. Firstly, the lead guitar is permanently driven through a fuzz pedal, giving the album a nostalgic and very American sound. Secondly, the vocal harmonies of Olson and Louris are absolutely watertight - and these aren't the ten a penny harmonies heard everywhere in music, these are something very special. Hearing the two of them play off each other is astounding, as if they'd been singing these songs together all their lives.
But the third, and most defining, characteristic of the band is the songwriting. Ten gems lie here for the taking, each one evoking pictures of the sprawling American Midwest, and the triumphs and tragedies in the lives of the people scattered across the land. An album of beautiful, intimate rock songs that deserved much more plaudits than the band received. And, because it inspired them to make the phenomenal follow-up 'Tomorrow The Green Grass', a small part of me is glad about this.

Tomorrow the Green Grass
Tomorrow the Green Grass
Price: £2.53

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect blend of country and rock music, 4 Mar 2002
This was the Jayhawks' last album with founder and chief songwriter Mark Olson at the helm, and it is no coincidence that this was the bands' finest hour. The album is packed full of undiscovered gems, with styles ranging from heads-down hard country rock (Miss Williams' Guitar) to the fragile beauty of "Two Hearts", the album's centrepiece and one of the most yearning laments ever committed to disc. The addition of a string section and a warmer, more polished production give this album the edge over previous album 'Hollywood Town Hall', and demonstrate that, had fate not intervened, the Jayhawks were well on the way to forging the perfect marriage of rock and country music. Their finest hour, and a high point for rock and roll in the 1990s.

Being There
Being There
Price: £7.04

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect homage to all things past, 14 Feb 2002
This review is from: Being There (Audio CD)
Following an indifferent reception to Wilco's debut album "A.M", and chastened by the success of Jeff Tweedy's former band member Jay Farrar, this double album reaffirms the brilliance that was the hallmark of Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy's former band. With Jay Bennett ably assisting with the songwriting, Being There is a double CD romp through all that is best about American music. A blend of country, roots rock, 1970's rock and roll and soulful blues, this album established Wilco as the foremost purveyors of genuine Americana amidst so many other pale imitators.
The dynamics across each tune are stunning - from Misunderstood, where acoustic guitars give way to ragged Crazy Horse style feedback, through to the Rolling Stones-esque rock and roll tunes (Monday, Outtamind (outta sight)) Wilco create beautiful renditions of music from an age gone by but manage to keep it sounding fresh and contemporary through clever arrangement and Tweedy's vocal yearnings. Rather than repeat this sound on their next album, Wilco moved in favour of a more rock orientated sound for Summerteeth. However, if you are looking for a definitive homage to old school American rock and roll/country, there is no better album for you to own. As well as being a fascinating history lesson in music, it stands head and shoulders above most other albums of this type released in the 1990s. Long after people have forgotten that bands such as the Counting Crows existed, someone somewhere will still be playing this album to death.

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