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Blondie 4(0)-Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux / Ghosts Of Download
Blondie 4(0)-Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux / Ghosts Of Download
Price: £13.97

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the fans, 9 Jun. 2014
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I've bought every Blondie album since becoming a fan long after they had split up, and I've always been slightly nervous about the new material in case they couldn't live up to that phenomenal run of six original albums. 1999's No Exit grew on me and was very welcome, and 2003's commercial flop The Curse of Blondie bordered on being a career highlight, vastly underrated. But the departure of Jimmy Destri seems to have led to some floundering and by the time 2011's Panic of Girls came out the magic had gone on what turned out to be a mediocre album. That release was saved by the genius fan pack that came with early copies, and that's where this band really do excel now...

Blondie 4(0) Ever is essentially one for the fans - a three disc set if you get the right one, nicely packaged with three separate discs, booklets, gig poster etc. But how they could leave three tracks off a deluxe release is beyond anyone's guess. At least those came free with the Amazon Auto-rip.

Ghosts of Download worried me from what I had heard of it but it turned out to be a pretty decent pop record that would doubtless have been a huge hit had a younger act with strong label backing made it. While Sugar on the Side could have done without its special guests it makes for a good opener, followed quickly by the infectious Rave, and Beth Ditto duet A Rose by Any Name. Ultimately the album goes off the boil towards the end of this CD release, which makes it all the more curious that the three (missing) bonus tracks were much better.

From the contemporary to the start, the 1977 live DVD is a fantastic inclusion that shows the youthful band at the start of their careers playing many hits and album tracks that never get played out these days. But we all know that what came in between was pop perfection - solid gold anthems by the greatest band on earth at the time. Those songs still sound great today, but you can't improve on perfection and nor should you try. The re-recorded Greatest Hits: Deluxe Redux disc falls flat. Musically they are almost identical to the originals, vocally they differ, somehow lacking the emotion and attitude of the 70s/80s versions. For a package like this they should have reinterpreted the songs in a radically different way to the originals - swing/jazz/motown/big band or something, and it could have been almost a five star package had they done so.

As it is this one's really for the fans and the four star rating is a combination of the raw early-years footage, the new songs and the overall package. But if you're looking for the best of Blondie, you really still can't beat 'The Best of Blondie'...

Softly, Softly
Softly, Softly
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Softly, Softly (MP3 Download)
I stumbled across The Hosts as I do many new bands these days - via BBC 6Music's King of Indie Steve Lamacq - and in doing so I found one of the most immediate and uplifting albums I'd heard in a long time. The beauty of The Hosts is that they could have made this record at any point since about 1958 and in any of the intervening decades it would have affected people and left a smile on their faces. The genius here is that they have essentially eliminated the risk of it ever sounding dated by making it retro from the get-go. Wide horizons hark back to Buddy Holly and drive in cinemas, doo-wop and the Everly Brothers, yet at the same time it sounds remarkably current and points to where bland modern pop is seriously lacking.

That the band have been produced by fellow Sheffield son Richard Hawley and that they cover Roy Orbison's 'In Dreams' on the record are quite telling... If you can imagine the Big O himself covering 'Tonight the Streets Are Ours' you've an idea of how this joyous album pans out.

If there's any justice the Hosts will join the roster of great Sheffield bands that already boasts Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and the Human League amongst its ranks. And Softly, Softly will become as timeless a classic as its influences have.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 10:33 AM BST

Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, 30 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Augustines (MP3 Download)
I must admit I wasn't a fan of Augustines in their previous guise 'We Are Augustines' No matter how I tried their first album just didn't do it for me. A couple of years down the line though and this self-titled sophomore LP was an entirely different proposition. The lead single Nothing to Lose But your Head sounds like Springsteen doing Editors and signals a move into a much more widescreen cinematic sound that echoes the stadium rock of U2 and White Lies. 'Augustines' seamlessly moves between these arms-in-the-air anthemic moments to more tender stripped back numbers (Weary Eyes; The Avenue), taking in some pretty powerful instrumental moves (Highway 1 Interlude) along the way.

An increasingly exciting band to keep an eye on. It you overlooked them the first time, watch out for them on the ascent now.

Blondie: Parallel Lives
Blondie: Parallel Lives
by Dick Porter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive career history, 30 Mar. 2014
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I've been a fan of Blondie for a long time but discovered the band during the wilderness years, and at a time when the idea of a reunion was just incomprehensible. In the last 20 years I've read a lot about them but found this book to provide a comprehensive history of each member, as well as the band in various incarnations, its successes, transitions, solo projects and the ongoing problems that have dogged them all this time. It filled in a lot of gaps and answered a lot of questions.

As with any biographical book, if the story isn't interesting it doesn't matter how good their art is, it won't make for a compelling read. This is the kind of book that a casual listener with a passing interest could enjoy - and probably come out the other side as a bigger fan.

Sheffield Flats: Park Hill and Hyde Park - Hope, Eye Sore, Heritage
Sheffield Flats: Park Hill and Hyde Park - Hope, Eye Sore, Heritage
by Peter Tuffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the post war rebuilding of Sheffield, 30 Mar. 2014
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As a photographer with a strong interest in architecture I've been mesmerised by Park Hill in the last few years, following the regeneration and looking into what went before it. There's something uneasy about the building that sits glowering over the city, drawing me in every time I step off a train. In its current transitional state it is largely uninhabited and there is an edgy silence about it, save for doors banging in the breeze through broken windows, and birds nesting in the old balconies.

This book covers the entire history to date of Park Hill in bite size chunks and anecdotes, as well as its even more notorious neighbour Hyde Park. As the previous reviewer has expressed, it's a shame it doesn't cover the Kelvin flats as well but nevertheless this was an interesting and worthwhile read. In fact I'd read other books by this author on the social and industrial heritage of the area off the back of it.

Price: £13.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year 2012, 26 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Funtimes (Audio CD)
There was always something slightly unfair about Morecambe making the top three in Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran's roll-call of the UK's `Crap Towns', a searingly vitriolic - if entertaining - compendium of the worst places in the country to live.

Okay so the piers have gone, the fairground has gone, the swimming stadium has gone and the Winter Gardens sits derelict, an uninvestable proposition glowering across the promenade. Everywhere you look there are sad reminders of the past, but what's left is quite charming, and it affords the opportunity to daydream for a while down by the sea...

To me, that is Morecambe's appeal. It clings onto the past, it dares to dream of a return to those glory days, and it might look forlorn but there's still actually plenty to see if you have the imagination. It just needs somebody to stick up for it.

Enter local boys and band-on-the-ascent The Heartbreaks. If it's gloriously dreamy seaside infused indie rock and roll you're after, this fourpiece have it in (buckets and) spades, and this debut long-player serves up a faultless collection of songs dripping with the soul of Morecambe. That's what makes The Heartbreaks more than just a band - everything about them, and their album, from the lyrics to the sleeve art, reflects the charming Englishness and faded romanticism of this quintessential seaside town they forgot to close down.

It wouldn't work everywhere - though I could cite Pulp's narrative of Sheffield as another example of where it does. Morecambe and The Heartbreaks go together in just as perfect a way. You could say that they carry echoes of the Smiths, the Jam, Elvis Costello... Aztec Camera on a good day... but why would you when The Heartbreaks are so out there as a force in their own right? And for all the nods to the past, this is definitely a band for the future.

Personally I think it's quite rare to find a true five-star album, let alone a five-star debut, but from the minute I put Funtimes on I was sold. Fan favourite Liar, My Dear opens the proceedings with typical lyrical wit, followed by the glorious should've-been-a-hit lead single Delay, Delay. Hand on Heart is another classic piece of pop on an album stuffed full of potential singles, before the band head into spaghetti western territory on Winter Gardens. And so it continues. Polly is another lovely sing-along tune, Gorgeous is euphorically anthemic, and I Didn't Think It Would Hurt To Think Of You the perfect heart-wrenched but ever upbeat finale. By the time it's all over (ten tracks in just over half an hour) you're left with a big smile on your face and longing for more, willing this band to get the attention and success they deserve.

"Here we are, sat in our little town... We'll be the pride of it someday" muses Matthew Whitehouse on 'Delay, Delay'.

Looking round at their homecoming gig last Christmas, that day may just have come.

Price: £9.74

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The real 'Greatest Hits', 26 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Close (Audio CD)
The 25th anniversary re-issue of Close was a welcome reminder of my 80s pop roots, as much as it was an unwelcome reminder that 25 years had passed since I bought it on vinyl the first time round at the tail end of my primary school days.

I've dabbled in Kim's work over the years and indulged in a Greatest Hits collection since then, but it was Close that for me represents her finest work - and it was far from the start of her career. The set list hangs together perfectly and produced rich pickings for singles, though arguably most tracks on the album could have been put out as a seven-inch. Hey Mr Heartache sounds a little tame these days when memory told me it was a bit more experimental in its day, but it's good to hear it again. You Came remains a great song, as does Four Letter Word, but it was always Never Trust a Stranger that did it for me. One of the most perfect pop records ever made, it's nice to have the extended version included here on a set so far expanded that it more than doubles the track listing.

Some of the extended mixes are little too similar to warrant inclusion but you get the impression that a lot of thought went into this package and that fans of Kim, and good old fashioned 80s pop in general will love it.

If you remember the singles charts of 1988 in all their glory, or the school discos, buy this re-issue and take a trip down memory lane. Definitely one to bring a smile to your face.

Suck It And See
Suck It And See
Offered by Side Two
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Career highlight, 26 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Suck It And See (Audio CD)
Arctic Monkeys were widely considered to be the saviours of the UK indie scene when they rocked into the national consciousness back in 2006. 'Whatever people say I am...' was rightly celebrated as a masterpiece, while 2007's 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' delivered more of the same. After the difficult third album 'Humbug' split opinion, Suck It And See heralded a stunning reinvention of sorts that saw the band vary the offering in fine style.

Set opener She's Thunderstorms is indicative of what's to come - a more confident, laid back, melodic sound that continues with the glorious Black Treacle. Radio-friendly hit the Hellcat Spangled Shalalala was ubiquitous in the summer of 2011, bringing jangly guitar pop into the mix, while the title track sees the band divert into ballad territory, albeit with their own recognisable stamp on it. Fans of their early work weren't excluded as the Monkeys showed they could still rock out, with Library Pictures being one of their finest frenzied tracks to date, and lead single Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair showcasing their lyrical wit as well as any of their work.

It's certainly not front-loaded with the best tracks either: As you'd expect from a band with such gravitas the quality is consistent right to the close. That's Where You're Wrong is the perfect finale that could easily have been a hit single had it been released as one, and proved the springboard into album number five.

With that fifth album - AM - now on the shelves, seeing the band venture even further into new territory, it's Suck It And See that for me remains their finest hour. And with a back catalogue as impressive as theirs, that's quite an endorsement.

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