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Guy Peters

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Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When doom becomes metal, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Audio CD)
Like all other Black Sabbath albums, their fifth one has an enormous potential to offend: it's got unnecessarily stretched songs, rips itself off, features Ozzy's awkward helium voice (it never was that bad before), boasts a pretty silly evil album cover (by Drew Struzan, who also designed the cover of Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare) and, last but not least, features a guest appearance by none other than the brother Rick Wakeman (Yes / interesting solo career) - if that ain't an omen. However, it still manages to overcome all these (potential) weaknesses on the strength of, uhm... the usual stuff: some excellent songs, sounds and riffs. While I'm usually a sucker for short songs that get to the point quickly and finish before they become tedious, the only two songs that are shorter than five minutes on this album are basically the main flaws. The appropriately titled instrumental "Fluff" sounds nice and cosy and all, with those acoustic guitars and a harpsichord that gives it a medieval tinge, but it's ultimately too fluffy. I must've heard it dozens of times, yet I can't remember how it goes and each time when I listen to it, it glides by unnoticeably. Ten of these, and you'll have a fine new age album, I guess. Something to fall asleep to, indeed. The other rotten tomato is the hopelessly outdated synth-rock of "Who Are You," on which Ozzy and Geezer (Wakeman even didn't have anything to do with this one, if I'm right) experiment with synths and a mellotron, and the results are - simply put - disastrous. Sabbath's sound has always been a corpulent one, a behemoth dragging itself along, but at least you had Iommi's massive riffs to retain the power. Replace guitars with spacey fake synths and what you get is a limp, forceless and overweight heap of nothingness. While the vocals aren't anything to speak of and the lyrics themselves are rather simplistic (yes, I'm being nice), it becomes even more trite because of the peculiar "anti-music". Fortunately, there's some good rockin' goin' on as well, not in the least when the opening track kicks off. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" has everything to be a classic: it's heavy with a purpose (easily the most powerful on the album), has a remarkable alternation of trudging repetition and semi-acoustic breaks with folk/jazz touches (there's Led Zeppelin again!), but more importantly, its second half has what's quite possibly the most monumentally heavy and memorable Sabbath riff ever: when Iommi kicks in after 3:19, and Ozzy joins him with his piercing "Where did you run to?"-line... oh man, I can hardly describe what a blast that is. A bulldozer grind with helium vocals, who would've thought of it!? There's nothing that even comes close on the album, excitement-wise, but "A National Acrobat" must be one of the band's most underrated tracks, although one riff and Ozzy's vocal melody are almost exactly the same as those of the title track. It's a lighter and more accessible version of the band - coming closer to hard rock than metal - but it fits the more transparent appeal of the album, while the "happy" galloping ending leads up to a great, rumbling finale. Also songs like "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Killing Yourself to Live" are much easier to digest than anything that came before, the former because it's basically a bluesy boogie tune (although it features Rick Wakeman on piano and synths), but an acceptable one, and the latter because it announces the melodic sissy hard rock that would come later on. It's basically a silly outcast-story, but the chorus definitely has appeal, while those duelling, overdubbed guitar solos are particularly refreshing to hear on a Sabbath album. The album's last two songs are less impressive, but "Looking for Today" still stands as one of their most melodically pleasing songs up to that point. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is a bit of a divisive album, as its detractors consider it the beginning of the end, but despite its flaws and considerably less brutal power, it's still Sabbath in their prime, offering a pleasing combination of catchy heaviness and slightly peculiar, but oh so charming attempts at a certain elegance. Does that make sense? I KNEW IT DID!

Black Heart Procession
Black Heart Procession
Price: £17.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only the beginning, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Black Heart Procession (Audio CD)
If depression were considered a virtue, then The Black Heart Procession would be elected to write the national anthem. Essentially made up by former Three Mile Pilot members and multi-instrumentalists Tobias Nathaniel and Pall Jenkins, along with drummer Mario Rubalcaba, the band has moved away from TMP's angsty nineties rock, heading in much darker and minimalist territory. Imagine Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds without the danger, early Scott Walker without the grand orchestrations and Sixteen Horsepower without the banjo and the searing preaches and you're getting close. The Black Heart Procession's universe is one of the pre-color age, as their songs are vignettes of loss and sadness in which only black and a bit of white are allowed; the latter only for shading purposes. The darkness is not of the grating, dissonant kind, though. It's not the kind of foreboding that sends shivers down your spine or hurts your ears. Instead, you get a kind of bare-boned drama, crawling dirges and pitch-black romanticism that nearly drowns in its own suffocating misery. Usually concentrated around simple piano melodies, the songs are fleshed out with accordion, acoustic guitar, organ, vibraphone and a singing saw, which conjures settings of ghost towns, scarred faces that haven't felt emotion in a long, long time and desolate graveyards in ruins. Imagine a weary, plaintive voice on top of that and you're ready to go sulking in the corner.

This stylistic minimalism with maximum impact is something you should've seen coming, as the band retains that philosophy on all levels. Their next albums would be called 2 and Three, while the word "heart" seems to be a recurring favorite. Similarly, the album's mood remains amazingly consistent throughout, even though fans of more upbeat material will prefer calling it relentlessly monotonous. Dominant are songs that try to creep along under the weight of their own melancholy: it's shocking how effectively "The Old King of Summer" manages to portray lost love with only a silly piano melody, accordion and some saw. More ominous and dramatic is "Stitched to My Heart," an expressionist and funereal soundtrack to a story of heartbreak, emptiness and despair that could've been a total misfire in the hands of a less gifted band. Other droning songs like "Heart without a Home" and "The Waiter" are equally good at setting a mood and continuing it. The album's best tracks, however, arrive when the band disbands the funeral pace and gets the tempo up a bit. The piano hammering and nearly martial drum rhythms of "Release My Heart" evoke images of, well, a procession of ghosts marching towards possible salvation, while "Blue Water - Black Heart" almost seems like an attempt at writing a pop song compared to the rest of the material. However, a never-shifting mood can only work if the material that's presented is of a stellar level and unfortunately, the album's second half lacks the focus to achieve this, with especially the minutes of closer "A Heart the Size of a Horse" descending into a murky repetitiveness. Still, if you consider that 1's songs were written in the three months prior to the recording and recorded, mixed and mastered in 11 days, it's no surprise that their sophomore album would easily surpass this one.

Keep Your Cool
Keep Your Cool

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Groove-fest, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Keep Your Cool (Audio CD)
He should've called it Dear Music Fan, the Shiny Disc You're Holding in Your Hands Basically Contains One 33-Minute Groove, and the title would've been even more fitting than it already is. Keep Your Cool is possible the grooviest album I have EVER heard (it tops Jalamanta, which is quite an achievement). From start to finish, it's concerned with the flexibility of the vertebras in your neck, the elasticity of your hips and your spiritual well-being. Gone are the hesitant pop pretensions of Brant Bjork & the Operators and so is most of the noodling that some of his earlier songs contained. What you get instead are simple, minimalist rhythms, riffs and vocals that combine the sheer funkiness of early Funkadelic records with the trance-like progressions of Fat Possum-styled blues. I bet some people would accuse Bjork of underachieving for releasing an 8-song album that barely makes an emotional, or even stylistic, impact, and flows for a good half instead, but it's something he's really good at. It's quite superfluous to discuss the songs separately, but there are slight differences that keep things interesting enough to distinguish `em: the short nonsensical introduction "Hey, Monkey Boy" is followed by the pothead groove of "Johnny Called," which then basically continues for a few songs. When "Rock-n-Rol'e" goes a bit tougher, it sounds like a laidback version of AC/DC-meets-Thin Lizzy, while the funk-blues riff of "I Miss My Chick" is an addictive stomper you'll want to hear over and over again. The instrumental title track offers some sonic diversity by including acoustic guitars as well, and "Gonna Make the Scene" has falsetto vocals that once again remind you Bjork is the desert version of the midget from Minneapolis. And so it goes on, until the album reaches its conclusion when "My Soul" - which does contain what it's about - simply fades out. That's about it, there's nothing more to tell. Keep Your Cool is a short, warm, funky, sexy and immensely enjoyable album by a guy who's doing what he does best and realizes that "less" may not be "more," but can certainly be "enough." He's right.

Brant Bjork & The Operators
Brant Bjork & The Operators

3.0 out of 5 stars Slick & lazy, 5 July 2009
Still spacey, but in a different way. Despite what the title suggests, Brant Bjork & the Operators is very much a solo album, with Bjork doing the basics and a few people (Marco Lalli, Scream's Franz Stahl, a guy called Mathias Schneeberger, who also produced the album) adding extra guitar or keyboards. This second album is more ambitious, has a broader approach and is more song-oriented than Jalamanta, but it's also less charming. "Hinda65" immediately shows you the main difference: the keyboards. They're not the ones with the `70's sound, or organ sound, but the spacey ones the new wavers used two decades ago. Some people mentioned Devo and The Cars, and it does make sense, no matter how weird that comparison may be. While the opening track is basically a stretched out exercise in monotony (but in a good way), the songwriting has become much tighter and hook-laden during some of the other songs, and maybe it's just me, but this time around, those are exactly the songs that work best. Take "My Ghettoblaster," for instance, probably the catchiest song any member of the whole Kyuss/QOTSA/Mondo Generator-scene ever released. It's got a muscular riff and straightforward drive, but check out that "sweet" melody during the chorus and those slick keyboard-accents... pure gold. The same goes for "Cheap Wine," the kind of song you'd rather expect on a, um, pop album: it's got a slightly dated retro-sound, but Bjork succeeds in putting more diversity in his vocals than before which benefits some of these songs which otherwise would've been a bit pedestrian.

There's nothing as catchy as those two songs on the album, but "Smarty Pants" will also appeal to those who dig QOTSA's softer side. That's not nearly all, as "Joey's Radio" (a tribute to the holy Ramone) could be labelled as "power pop" (use your imagination). Of course, there's also stuff that would make the mainstream music fan yawn all day long: "From the Ground up" is a semi-successful, slightly discordant rocker, "Captain Lovestar" builds up a six minute-groove that gets a bit tedious after a while, and then there's of course the three instrumentals (and who cares about those these days?). Whereas those on Jalamanta made you wish they'd continue for ten minutes each, they are a bit less interesting here: "Electric Lalli Land" with its wah-wah effects and nervous, prog-styled drumming is impressive from a musician's point-of-view, but a bit over-indulgent from mine; while the greasy, jazz noodling of "Cocoa Butter" could've done with a bit more energy. The majority of the songs are still dang enjoyable though, just like the instrumental "Hinda65 (Return Flight)" that ends the album on an impressive note with a `70's-styled, Lalo Schifrin-tribute that would work great in a sleazy porn flic or cop movie. Brant Bjork & the Operators certainly has its merits (a great, warm sound, strong playing, diversity, a cover that has to be a pun on Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album, considering the similarity in dress code/attitude), but the songs aren't always the beneficiaries, and some were probably more fun to make than to listen to
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2010 6:03 PM BST

Illustrated Man
Illustrated Man

3.0 out of 5 stars Another kind of blues, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Illustrated Man (Audio CD)
Bjorn Berge was born into poverty as the youngest of eight children. When both his parents died from the consequences of cholera, the 12 year-old and his siblings were forced to look out for themselves, and that's how the kid wound up in a car factory, working double shifts, but stubbornly practising on his battered, second hand acoustic guitar which he'd bought for five dollars. His mentor was a certain Louisiana Slim, a legend of whom we know next to nothing... Wait, wait, this nonsense has gotta end. As far as I know, Berge had a normal youth in Norway, where people are as likely to buy blues albums as they're gonna be fans of Fela Kuti. It just doesn't make sense, you know. Still, Berge emerged fully-fledged from the underground in the late 90s, with looks that make him a dead ringer for some guy in Biohazard, but a preoccupation for acoustic folk blues. Like on his next album, 2004's St. Slide, it's obvious that Berge's not only fond of the personal form of expression that blues is, but also rock, as he picks songs from acts as diverse as Jethro Tull (a thoroughly changed "Locomotive Breath") and The Red Hot Chili Peppers (a frenetic, exhausting romp through "Give It Away"). By consequence, blues purists better beware, as this Norwegian action figure doesn't seem to give a single crap about conformity and prefers to dress up his songs with un-pure details. Much like R.L. Burnside's 2000 album Wish I Was heaven Sitting Down, Berge's album offers a broader sound palette, coupling the authentic to the modern and the analogue to the digital. As a result, opening song "Cypress Grove" (originally by Skip James) is not only propelled by harmonica, 12-string guitar and Berge's commanding baritone, but also subtle layers of programming. This all works fine on the quieter tracks - the pretty "Some Days" gets an even wearier, late night-vibe because of it - yet it can become a bit overbearing during already dense tracks like "Funky Face." Further material to annoy the Alan Lomax in every listener comes with "Wishful Thinking," a bare-boned blues-rocker with BIG drums that has more in common with Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion than folk blues; and an almost unrecognisable, funkified version of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues" (yep, that's the one with the legendary sexual innuendo). Despite the fact that Berge usually gets away with his non-conformism (regardless of the angelic backing vocals of Kristin Berglund (Scandinavia's very own Emmylou Harris?) "Angel Band" remains a bit bland), the tracks I kept turning to where the ones he didn't tamper with: the moody "Heather," the speeding fingerpickin' fest of "Illustrated Man" and the Tony Joe White-style stomp of "Ride On" that shows that Berge has an understanding of blues music and maintains his credibility when he's left on his own, with feet-stomping rhythms and his Takamine guitar. While it lacks the spark and consistency of a great album, Illustrated Man has the Henry Rollins of blues performers expand his horizon with dominantly successful results.


2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A dead end, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Whammy! (Audio CD)
What the hell happened? In 1981, the insane quintet released Party Mix, an EP featuring remixes of five songs, and in 1982 the EP Mesapotamia (you're encouraged to send it to me if you happen to own a copy) with the aid of fellow-geek David Byrne. In 1983, three year after the sophomore release Wild Planet they suddenly reappear with this entirely puzzling synth-pop album. Some of the ingredients are still there: the music's still ridiculously tight, the vocals are unlike anyone else's and the lyrics are as inane as ever ("I ain't foolin', give me a refuelin', yeah whammy kiss me, whammy hug, come on mammy, throw me that whammy," etc), but they also succeeded in turning their all-over-the-place goofball music into something too artificial, entirely dominated by horrendously outdated synths and drum computers. At the time, they probably were among the most courageous of new wave bands for doing this, but what does courage mean by itself? Why walk into a brick wall without a helmet? The ultra-tight guitars are almost drowning in these plastic sounds, while the ongoing rhythm tracks throughout this album resemble something like tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk, only faster. The Sesame Street synths of "Legal Tender" are bearable, but it's really the only song I have no (well...) bone to pick with, as the remainder of the album is a monotonous exercise in soulless robot-pop that occasionally refers to their early material ("Whammy Kiss," Butterbean"), but usually remains so self-occupied that it doesn't even notice the "eh?"-factor is way in the red. The completely over the top "Song for a Future Generation" is kinda interesting, as it could've appeared on Wild Planet, but when you get to the part where all the members introduce themselves ("Hello, I'm Cindy and I'm a Pisces, and I like Chihuahuas and Chinese noodles"), you'll just cringe at all that silliness. They had always been about grotesque camp and kitsch gone astray, but there's only so much a regular guy like me can take. And so the album goes on, moving from by-the-books B-52's ("Trism" and "Moon 83," which makes me curious about the song it replaced - a cover of Yoko Ono's "Don't Worry") to awkward percussion-heavy Kid Creole-meets-arcade-game-nonsense ("Big Bird") to, finally, the forgettable instrumental album closer. They'd eventually recover from this creative low and stylistic dead-end, but unfortunately the goofy charm that made 'em so appealing in the first place was gone forever when they OK'd the release of Whammy!.

B 52's Party Mix
B 52's Party Mix
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £20.95

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a bit superfluous, 5 July 2009
This review is from: B 52's Party Mix (Audio CD)
Nowadays it's quite common, but back in the day when Party Mix was released, a remix album of already existing rock songs (although it's debatable whether you could or should consider The B-52's an average rock band) to get people wiggle their booty on the dance-floor must've been quite special. The release gathers three songs from the classic debut and three from Wild Planet, and while most of these are among their best songs (the only crucial absent one being "Rock Lobster"), Party Mix's relevance is questionable. Four of these songs are longer than their original counterparts ("Give Me Back My Man" even getting three minutes extra), but the problem is that these remixes are rarely improvements. The B-52's already were a dance band in my book - albeit one for freak-parties attended by marshmellow-munching, kool aid-gulping nerds with a few nasty tics - as their first two albums dealt in a merger of camp, surf and other random silliness that was twice as geeky as anything The Talking Heads ever recorded. There are no radical deconstructions or re-workings included here, the main difference usually being a larger amount of silly, spacey sounds, more pronounced beats and added percussion. "Party Out of Bounds" and "Give Me Back My Man" get stretched out towards the end and while that's no big deal in the former's case, the latter loses its momentum. As the least unadorned of the Wild Planet-cuts, "Private Idaho" - possible their best song and a classic of the new wave-era - remains the essential pick. The same thing can be said about the Yellow Album songs: the extra minute doesn't make "Lava" more charming and "52 Girls" remains as oddly infectious as it already was two years earlier. If you think that The B-52's represented the kind of new wave with the highest entertainment factor, like me, you'll undoubtedly love this album, but the frustrating lack of improvement (creativity, even) when compared to the original material makes it somewhat of a superfluous release that you only need to check out if you have too much money to spare (in which case I'll give you my bank account number).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2012 3:54 PM BST

Wild Planet
Wild Planet
Offered by GMFT
Price: £13.55

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A shade weaker than the debut, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Wild Planet (Audio CD)
One look at the album cover, and you'll immediately expect more of the spacey surf-pop-goes-extra-terrestrial that made up a large part of the debut. The canary yellow is replaced by blood red, but the line-up, the ridiculous hairdos (created by Laverne), Schneider's silly moustache, and the overall kitsch have remained the same. Although it's still vintage 52's, they have altered their sound somewhat: the eerie keyboards and ear-piercing shrieks have diminished, those ultra-tight guitar riffs are less upfront, and the album as a whole leans more towards a new wave-meets-dance pop sound that wasn't as out of step with the time as their debut album, which was regarded by many as a masterpiece. Of course that was an exaggeration (the second album half was positively disappointing compared to the supreme lunacy of the first half), but the second album is not the enormous deterioration many critics claimed it to be either. It lacks the quirky charm of the debut somewhat, but the song-writing and performances are for the most part still very good.

Album opener "Party out of Bounds" has a very appropriate title, as it's a deliciously infectious track that hesitates between quite conventional dance-pop and more angular funk. The guitar is less upfront, but the fast percussion and silly backing vocals help to turn it into a damn fine opener any band would be proud of. It's immediately followed by another excellent track, "Dirty Back Road", even though it lacks the typical eccentricity, sounds more serious and `normal' than anything the band had ever recorded before (the women sing quite conventional and doing a great job at it). The album's highlight is undoubtedly "Private Idaho," which starts off a bit weird, but suddenly transforms itself into a brilliantly catchy song with cool-sounding guitars (reminiscent of the first album), and, most importantly, astonishing vocal harmonies that turn this song into one of their very best, one that gives "Planet Claire" and "Rock Lobster" a run for their money. Though the rest of the album isn't nearly as good (heard that before, right?), there are still some interesting songs left: the peculiar dance-pop of "Give Me Back My Man" benefits from the alternately breathy/seductive and shrieking vocals of Cindy Wilson, while Fred Schneider's hysterical vocals shine in the exciting "Devil in My Car." "Strobe Light," simple and loud, ups the ante, and would be one of the last instances of a clear punk-influence in their music (although Schneider would re-visit this territory on his hard-rocking solo album Just...Fred (1996)). Like the debut, Wild Planet also has its share of lesser tracks that aren't bad, but that somehow lack the wickedness of the album's highlights. "Runnin' Around" is quite fast and exciting in the beginning, but doesn't have much to offer ultimately, while both "Quiche Lorraine" and "53 Miles West of Venus" never fulfil their expectations, and drag on for too long. Many other bands would've been happy with songs like these, though.

Wild Planet still sounds very fresh and adventurous when compared to albums by most contemporary party-bands. Like the debut, its best songs ("Party out of Bounds," "Private Idaho") are really good tracks that combine irresistible dance rhythms with sonic details that must've been something completely different at the time. Unfortunately, the band isn't capable of sustaining the momentum during the remainder of the album, which consists of good tracks and a few semi-successful ones. Wild Planet is also supposed to be their last (well, that's early) truly intriguing effort, as their act became increasingly more of an easy gimmick during the next years, and their sound less bizarre and adventurous.

Price: £5.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strikingly original, 5 July 2009
This review is from: B-52's (Audio CD)
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, which would become famous as the hometown of the world's biggest death metal band, R.E.M., the early B-52's were one of the most original and adventurous bands of their era, seamlessly combining seemingly contradicting genres (60's instrumental rock, girl group pop, punk, surf, avant-garde elements, etc) into an eccentric but convincing whole, constantly sauntering on the thin line between kitsch and artiness. The band consisted of Fred Schneider (vocals, some miscellaneous instruments), Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (mainly giggles and some other stuff), Cindy's brother Ricky on guitar, and Keith Strickland on drums. It is not only the music that was deemed semi-deranged. Some of the band members also looked almost alien (especially Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, with their outrageous hairdos), while the cover of the album was an extraordinary canary yellow.The album was produced by Chris Blackwell,founder of Island Recordsand also producer of several classic reggae-albums by Bob Marley and Toots & The Maytals, in Nassau (the Bahamas). And it shows. This is definitely a party record, one that will crack you up guaranteed, and that will have you hum along for almost 40 minutes.

"Planet Claire" is probably one of the greatest album openers of '79, with some Hank Marvin/ Bob Bogle-guitar stylings (or is that Duane Eddy's "Peter Gunn"?), sounding ultra-tight. Add to this some extra-terrestrial keyboards, the robotic singing of Fred Schneider, the band's trademark nonsensical lyrics ("Some say she's from Mars, or one of the seven stars, that shine after 3:30 in the morning, WELL SHE ISN'T"), and you're left with a winner. During the more swinging "52 Girls" we get the same cleanly-produced but punchy guitars, slightly false harmonies by the 2 women, weird synth-accents, and a combination of girl group cheesiness and punk energy. "Dance This Mess Around" starts off with keyboard bass (no `regular' bass on this album) and drums, and is quite repetitive (so are most of the other tracks on the album, by the way). The song does become memorable because of Cindy Wilson's ecstatic shrieks ("I say, don't that make you feel a whole lot better?"), the demented instrumentation and more freaky lyrics, though. "Rock Lobster" is probably the most notorious of these tracks, and rightly so, since this 6:50-combination of idiotic vocals, spacey noises and cool guitars is one of the most infectious tracks my ears have ever encountered. The second half of the album, on the other hand, is a bit less impressive, although it starts off with "Lava," which has muscular guitars, a GREAT melody, and the best vocals on the album, with Pierson and Wilson trading off excited shouts and ear-piercing shrieks. Next up is "There's a Moon in the Sky," a shortened variation on "Planet Claire" but ultimately not as entertaining (and it's a bit too long). "Hero Worship" strikes back, though, with jerky musicianship, a bouncy rhythm (the bass-line sounds like something from a Talking Heads-album), and Pierson freaking out, making the weirdest sounds and noises with that voice of hers. "6060-842" is the last song that's at least good. The best part of the song is the repeated "Your number's been disconnected" at the end. Last (and least) on the album is the disappointing "Downtown". Yes, it's the one Petula Clark also sung, but unfortunately this version is awful, and sounds uninspired, with just monotonous keyboards and false vocals by Pierson. It gets better when the guitar is more prominently present towards the end, but it remains sub-standard nevertheless.

"The Yellow Album" is an album with an original and even stunning first half, but it slumps down somewhat during the second half, which has a few songs that are no match for the earlier highlights ("Planet Claire," "52 Girls," and "Rock Lobster"). The entire album is still a great kick to listen to, though, even 24 years after its release. Much like Devo, The B-52's were one of those weird bands that were often dismissed or categorized on the basis of one or two songs, but this album proves they were truly a one-of-a-kind-bunch that effortlessly dabbled in music history and came up with a damn fine debut, which everyone, who ever plans on having a party, should have.

Sung Tongs
Sung Tongs
Price: £9.84

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustratingly messy, 5 July 2009
This review is from: Sung Tongs (Audio CD)
Each album serves a purpose. Some have been made to come to terms with experiences and feelings, others are made especially for you (the listener), are meant to teach you something, show you something, make you dance, think or initiate you into something. People seem to suggest that Animal Collective (basically the duo of Avey Tare and Panda Bear) is out there to teach you how to use your imagination, as their music offers so little to hold on to that you're required to fill in the gaps yourself. Those who enjoyed it a lot (a large group of people, as it topped many end of year-lists) even went as far as to compare it to a kind of religious experience, or a way to live through a state of childish euphoria a second time, with "childish" not standing for immature/juvenile, but pure/direct/free from any limitations. I can't deny that they actually accomplished this feat - the album does sound like the product of boundless imagination, with its pseudo-spontaneous songs, group therapy chants and tribal ambiance, but that's exactly what bugs me about the whole shebang. There have always been artists around that propagated a kind of back to basics/nature/purity-aesthetic, which always seems a silly way of escapism to me. But hey, I never said I was indifferent to the pitfalls of our cultural discourse. Now, as to how they took it to practise: by creating a bunch of "tongs," which are "about returning to an old house, doing nothing with friends or making sounds with bones": simple and pure fun. Right. It starts off very promising, though, with the drunken stupor of "Leaf House," a kind of campfire symphony with sparse instrumentation (guitar, percussion) and - most importantly - layers of dazzlingly arranged, harmonizing vocals that even recall the Beach Boys' vocal gymnastics. It's almost a sheer cacophony, but somehow the song managed to invoke a dream-like atmosphere that constantly walks the thin line between randomness and direction. The brief slice of ecstasy "Who Could Win a Rabbit" is even better, as folk instrumentation, tape manipulation and random sounds are combined and turned into one hell of a mess that almost succeeds in taking you into another mindset. Sadly enough, this is where excitement comes to a halt, as the remainder of the album seems to have been intended as a long string of free-floating pieces that try to reconcile elements from psychedelic music (manipulations, eerie vocal melodies), folk and experimental music. The contemplative "The Softest Voice" may evoke unreal rituals and barren landscapes, the childish vocals in the second half of "Winters Love" might crack you up, just like "Kids on Holiday" (Syd Barrett goes to the jungle), but from that point onwards the album descends into a long-winded mess that just relies too much on its own idiosyncratic tricks, twist and turns (which is reminiscent of the way in which CocoRosie's self-absorption made 'em deliver not enough memorable substance). "Visiting Friends" is a twelve-minute bore, "We Tigers" suggests what a collaboration of Rhythm of the Saints-era Paul Simon with The Butthole Surfers might sound like (it's HORRIBLE), while the final few (s)(t)ongs of the album have the storage life of a fart, and God knows I really, really tried to give 'm a second chance. And a third and fourth. Sung Tongs managed to do what very few albums have been capable of before: grabbing my attention with the opening attack and gradually raising the annoyance level to a dangerous high. Perhaps I'm flushing my indie cred down the drain with statements like this (or maybe it's just that I don't have the imagination that's required to absorb this album and help me create my own little universe of purity and happiness), but boy, Sung Tongs isn't a very good album, or is it?

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