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Marrissey (Bristol)

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Rewolf
Rewolf
Price: £15.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sublime Surprise., 8 Feb 2010
This review is from: Rewolf (Audio CD)
Asobi Seksu have long preferred to title their particular brand of music the rather illustrious moniker of "Dream Pop". Upon listening to the eponymous debut Asobi Seksu and especially follow-up Citrus one might well have considered it more appropriate to assign them a part of the Shoegaze canon - with clear influences from My Bloody Valentine and the like.

With new LP, Hush, things changed somewhat - it was a slower album with the leanings to Shoegaze but the departure was far more apparent. Instead of offering an aftertaste, or even after throttle from the heavier songs - the softer songs now took centre stage. In that new role, with the remaining shoe gaze tinges they felt like an antipesto without a main - an album crying out for more than one stomper (Me & Mary).

Rewolf has allowed these songs to shine, as well as demonstrate just how strong and melodically durable the Asobi Seksu catalogue really is. While Breathe Into Glass and Blind Little rain sounded pretty good on Hush, with this acoustic, could hear a pin drop, treatment they are elevated to absolutely stunning. Lead singer Yuki Chikudate's voice takes centre stage more than ever, and what an absolutely wonderful voice it is - at times bearing a warmth that could steam the dew from the leaves at others the soaring wonder that could take it back up to the clouds. Not to be too hyperbolous but the girl really can sing and with everything stripped back, ReWolf is the best exhibition of this to date.

That the songs from Hush sound good with the acoustic treatment, however, is perhaps less of a revelation than the treatment of older songs like New Year's and Walk On The Moon, which are equally as beautiful stripped back. Honestly, the transformation of all these songs - expertly chosen and cohesively put together in the order presented - is just stunning. I'd always thought it was the resounding noise, their faster tunes, the industrial production coupled with the honey sweet vocals that I loved about this band yet At Olympic Studios changed those perceptions. Far from being the tepid afterthought that so many acoustic releases are from artists, or indeed the confused compromise that Hush at times seemed, Rewolf is perhaps Asobi Seksu's most compelling, intimate and indeed timeless arrangement to date. High praise indeed.


Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers [DVD]
Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eriko Sato
Price: £5.75

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark? Tick. Comedy? Crossed out tick., 8 Feb 2010
"Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers" explores the reverberations that one particularly polluted family member can enact upon their siblings and parents. Returning home from Tokyo for her parents' funeral, failed yet hopelessly aspiring actress Sumika Wago (played by Eriko Sato) resurrects her tawdry family tensions with her older brother and younger sister. Sato does a particularly good job portraying the spoilt, manipulative, and menacing Sumika and it is her performance that gives the film much of its merit. Particularly enjoyable and humorous is Sumika's struggle to come to terms with her newfound rural surroundings and being returned to her home roots. Director Daihachi Yoshida uses some great shots to capture the unique atmosphere of rural Japan, and even add an absurdity to Sumika's hatred of it.

As the film progresses the darker history of the family is revealed and this is surprisingly where the film loses much of its appeal. Though the dark family themes involved and the revelationary story telling are highly reminiscent of excellent Danish film Festen (a must watch if you enjoyed "Funuke" incidentally), it lacks a lot of that feature's subtelty and complexity. Everything is made very clear and spoken out, little is left to the imagination. Much of the supporting cast to "Funuke" are further presented as charicatures with few redeeming features. Ok, so the translated title suggests that might be the case, but a cast of utter losers is hard to really relate to or care about. For example Michiko, the brother's wife and the character with whom we might best sympathise at being tied to this ghastly family, is presented as such a pathetic moron it's hard to really care when she's getting trodden on by just about everyone.

Defintitely worth a watch and will no doubt appeal to those for whom a few dark themese scattered here and there are enough to garner enthusiasm or shock. For this reviewer, the characters (bar Sumika perhaps) just weren't quite believable enough in their interactions and the film lacked the charm and humour that many other "dark comedies" garner from a better rounded cast of characters.


Acoustic at Olympic Studios
Acoustic at Olympic Studios

5.0 out of 5 stars A sublime surprise, 4 Oct 2009
Asobi Seksu have long preferred to title their particular brand of music the rather illustrious moniker of "Dream Pop". The more traditional among us, upon listening to debut LP "Asobi Seksu" and especially follow-up "Citrus" might find have considered it more appropriate to assign them a part of the Shoegaze canon - with clear influences from My Bloody Valentine and the like.

With new LP, "Hush", things changed somewhat - it was a slower album with the leanings to Shoegaze but the departure was far more apparent. What this acoustic release, At Olympic Studios, shows is not that this was down to the quality of the songs, but the strange compromise they had found. Instead of offering an aftertaste, or even after throttle from the heavier songs - the softer songs now took centre stage. In that new role, with the remaining shoe gaze tinges they felt like an antipesto without a main - and album crying out for more than one stomper (Me And Mary).

What At Olympic Studios has done is allowed these songs to shine, as well as demonstrate just how strong and melodically durable the Asobi Seksu catalogue really is. While Breathe Into Glass and Blind Little rain sounded pretty good on Hush, with this acoustic, could hear a pin drop, treatment they are elevated to absolutely stunning. Lead singer Yuki Chikudate's voice takes centre stage more than ever, and what an absolutely wonderful voice it is - at times bearing a warmth that could steam the dew from the leaves at others the soaring wonder that could take it back up to the clouds. Not to be too hyperbolous but the girl really can sing and with everything stripped back, At Olympic Studios is the best exhibition of this to date.

That the songs from Hush sound good with the acoustic treatment, however, is perhaps less of a revelation than the treatment of older songs like New Year's and Walk On The Moon, which are equally as beautiful stripped back. Honestly, the transformation of all these songs - expertly chosen and cohesively put together in the order presented - is just stunning. I'd always thought it was the resounding noise, their faster tunes, the industrial grit that I loved about this band yet At Olympic Studios changed those perceptions. Far from being the tepid afterthought that so many acoustic releases are from artists, or indeed the confused compromise that Hush at times seemed, At Olympic Studios is perhaps Asobi Seksu's most compelling, intimate and indeed timeless arrangement to date.


My Japanese Coach (Nintendo DS)
My Japanese Coach (Nintendo DS)

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Above and beyond what I expected., 10 Sep 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Having lived in Japan for two years and been in the teaching profession myself I have tried many different approaches to learning the language with varied success. For me, this game is by far the best value learning tool for Japanese you can get. The material is almost identical to that covered in conventional textbooks, but far more interactive, easier to study on the go and tailor made for self-study.

Among my highlights would be the writing system (it's not perfect but so much better than most stuff out there - this game actually makes me WANT to learn the stroke order, and makes it more approachable). The mini-games offer a wide variety of approaches and test vocabulary comprehesively(before the only option for interactive self study I found was the super expensive Rosetta Stone Version 3: Japanese Level 1 with Audio Companion (Mac/PC CD) - I actually prefer the more traditional and theoretical approach of this DS game incidentally). You can even record your voice to check how "Japanese" you sound alongside the native speaker recording. Having lived in Japan I can attest how important correct pronunciation and writing style are, and something I found the most difficult to practice independently before. It's a shame there's no male voice option for us guys, since there's a big difference in male and female Japanese, but it's still great.

I would agree with other reviewers that you wouldn't learn Japanese to a decent level solely from this and should look to get a textbook that has some conversations covered in it, as well as some conversational audio tapes, and an exhaustive kanji book. It's also no substitute for a human teacher (the best learning tool of all). This is a really great little resource for testing yourself though, especially if you're too busy/broke to fit in a regular class. The added extras of a Japanese dictionary and phrasebook are a nice touch (though far from exhaustive), and for the price and portability I actually think it's remarkable and beautifully presented to boot.


We Are The Pipettes
We Are The Pipettes
Price: £7.12

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gwenno, Becky, Roseeeeee - 1, 2, 3, LET'S GO!, 28 May 2006
This review is from: We Are The Pipettes (Audio CD)
If We Are The Pipettes doesn't go down as one of THE great summer albums, nay pop albums, of all time there is not justice in the world. Someone remarked that any track could be a single and it really is true - quite how they managed to find so many catchy hooks is beyond me. To say the album is retro is an understatement - it feels like a very British Motown record if that were possible!

Those who enjoyed singles 'Dirty Mind' and 'Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me' know the sort of catchy melodic poppiness to expect. There is a tremendous energy throughout the entire album along with plenty of hand claps and finger clicks! The Pipettes make the most of the fact that all three members are primarily in the band to sing - the harmonies are fantastic - "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" exemplifies this, yet on every song the backing vocals are used to full effect to layer the track, be it the background "ooooooh"s and "just rest, just rest, just rest your pretty head" echoes on 'Sex' or "ooooh sha la la"s on 'One Night Stand'. For all the different vocals going on, though, there seems a tremendous deal of control to the vocal intercuts and undercuts - the record never gets crowded.

The subject matter is startlingly honest and fun. The Pipettes present an extremely powerful female image. At times the girls are brash man-eating amazons with lines like "if you haven't noticed yet, we're the prettiest girls you've ever met" and "when we drop you in our nets, you'll hope we haven't finished with you yet" on 'We Are The Pippettes' - a track which has recieved a brilliant new synth backing since the early demo versions - and "I don't love you, I don't need you, if you think that this is cruel you should see what my friends do" on 'One Night Stand'. At other times we see a certain fragility with 'It Hurts To See You Dance So Well' - one of the catchiest songs on the album - about a jealous unrequainted lover watching their crush tearing up the dance floor and attract the attention of rival lovers, or with 'I Love You''s "now you see me for my true colours, I'm sure you realise I'm more stupid than the others".

Lines like "I've cooked you seven meals most of them on which you choked" and "I don't want to be wined and dined, I just want to bump and grind with you here tonight". There's something very chip shop British about the whole affair - the girls sing (brilliantly) with very British accents and no expression is lost - there is something tremendously honest and genuine to the whole affair reminiscent of bands like Pulp or Arctic Monkeys (lyrically, not musically!). While most of the tracks are extremely danceable, 'A Winter's Sky' povides the sort of quiet lull that their earlier cover of 'In The Bleak Mid-Winter' hinted at. With the album so rapidly paced it's easy to overlook just how beautiful the melodies and harmonies on here are - as trashy and teenage love affair as the subject matter may often be, it's set to some of the glossiest musical candy there is (indeed, the British quirkiness of the vocals and lyrics helps to prevent it being overbearing!)

It's hard to express quite how enjoyable this album is. The energy, exuberance, humour and above all talent demonstrated by The Pipettes is overawing. I'm really not sure I've ever heard a glossy pop album quite this good.


Ringleader Of The Tormentors
Ringleader Of The Tormentors
Price: £4.98

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something gained, something lost., 28 May 2006
Let's start with the positives. This album is musically the best that Morrissey has created as a solo artist. His voice sounds smoother and more refined than ever. Indeed, "On The Streets I Ran" (the highlight of the record) rivals anything done by Morrisey or The Smiths in terms of vocal expression. The backing on tracks like "You Have Killed Me" and "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy" is heavier than any of Moz's Smiths work while the album as a whole remains less suffocatingly rockabilly than something like Your Arsenal. There is a lovely balance and variation in the tracks here - from the Turkish hypnosis of opener "I Will See You In Far Off Places" to the rainy ambience of the Ennio Morrocone arranged "Life Is A Pig Sty" and similarily Morrocone influenced "Dear God Please Help Me" driven by church organ and lucious string arrangements.

Yet, if this is the most musically daring and interesting Morrissey effort to date, one key ingredient seems to have suffered tremendously; the lyrics. For some this might not be important but to me this is THE reason par excellence to listen to a Morrissey record. Yet we end up with lines like "there are explosive kegs between my legs". There just seems to be something lacking - where there used to be a key concern for Morrissey in creating his own romantic fantasy of pariah championing Manchester, girls jumping from ferris wheels, and a genuine delicacy in his word-choice we now get obtuse statements like "there is no such thing in life as normal". Where Morrissey was once a shoulder to cry on, an artist in whose work one could always find something empathetic, his lyrics now feel almost like a dictation - there's face value and nothing more. This isn't quite true of all the tracks - "On The Streets I Ran" creates a delightfully ghastly imagery while there are other glimpses of lyrical flair. Yet the majority or the record fails to be nearly as lyrically exciting or appealing as much of Morrissey's cannon has been.

Ringleader of the Tormentors is certainly still an enjoyable listen - tracks like "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was The Most Loved", "In The Future When All's Well", "On The Streets I Ran" (can you tell how much I enjoyed this song yet?!) and indeed a fair few others are extremely catchy, while musically this collection of songs is the most daring Morrissey has been. Yet lyrically there is something significantly lacking. For all its glossy production and big-name contributors Ringleader has lost some of the personal charm of past ventures. It is no doubt incredibley hard for someone who has achieved such tremendous success, and consequently some degree of detachment from reality, to find suitabley compelling subject material, and this is what ultimately means this can't be one of the great Morrissey records.


Cannibal Sea
Cannibal Sea
Offered by groove_temple
Price: £14.21

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a splendid little pop album, 14 May 2006
This review is from: Cannibal Sea (Audio CD)
The Essex Green have provided one of the pop highlights of 2006 with this gem. It is clear from the start this isn't an album to push boundaries and the various songs have throwbacks to typical soft rock, country, folk and indie stylings. But it is this mixture of influences that proves the albums championing factors - despite operating with heavy derivation, the album's songs jump about so much that the overall picture still feels fresh and interesting.

"Don't Know Why (You Stay)" is the sort of catchy power pop bouncer that will get anyone immediately into the swing of things. But once such a musical sugar-rush has warn off some of the other songs hold strong. Take "Penny & Jack" (I know, the title sounds like soft rock at its worst) yet the melodies are so great you can't help but love it, with the male-female dynamic performed to a tee - this has all been done before, but rarely this well.

Vocal-wise, Sasha Bell and Christopher Zeller provide endlessly listenable performances in equal sharing. "Rue De Lis" is one of the best laid back summer songs I have heard in years as Zeller provides the sort of soft male vocal that most artists either shun through an inherent lack of subtelty or end up overdoing (no offence Belle and Sebastian, but sometimes you can be a little TOO cutesy!) - he captures the gentle side of manliness superbly (in a Cat Stevens sort of way I suppose). Equally there's a certain empassioned quality to Sasha Bell as she storms through catchy number "Elsinore", and it's where the empowered female meets the softer male that suddenly things get all ear-meltingly gorgeous as on something like "Sin City".

Sometimes a really well done soft-rock album can still be worthwhile, and this is just such an album. Of course the charge of lacking inventiveness could be aimed at The Essex Green but when music's this enjoyable to listen to, I'm hardly the one to do it!


Bring It Back
Bring It Back
Price: £18.43

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You will surely find this pleasing to your ears", 10 April 2006
This review is from: Bring It Back (Audio CD)
Before hearing 'Bring It Back' I hadn't heard of Mates of State, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise. Sounding a lot like The New Pornographers (who they are unsurprisingly supporting at the moment) the album makes the most of the male-female duo band dynamic, with some beautiful soaring harmonies. With only two band members (Korrie Gardner and Jason Hammel - married, incidentally) the album could be charged with having an overly minimalist sound. Just like Sparks' latest effort 'Hello Young Lovers' though, Gardner and Hammel's voices bounce off each other to build an impressive wall of sound that is backed by a dynamic use of instrumentation.
The songs themselves are catchy at worst and ass-shakingly glorious at best. The synth-triumph of 'Fraud In The '80s' is just as good as The New Pornographers' best efforts, the song structure of 'Think Long' is brilliantly all over the place and 'Running Out' closes the album in grand crescendoing fashion. The rest of the album is generally fairly catchy and the broad selection of instruments on display provides a certain excitement to proceedings - one minute breezing along to the electric organ, then stumbling to piano. Definitely one of the best releases I've heard so far in 2006, just perhaps a little bit forgettable at times.


The Kick Inside
The Kick Inside
Price: £5.77

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 17 year-old can deliver quite a kick..., 3 Nov 2005
This review is from: The Kick Inside (Audio CD)
Kate Bush's debut is amazing for 3 reasons, the first being that there is not a bad song on here, the second being that it is so different from anything else released in the late 70s (or, indeed, ever) and the third being that it was all penned by a girl who had presumably only just finished her O-levels.
The thing Bush does so well here, and where oh so many artists fail, is carry off overtly romantic songs without it ever sounding remotely cheesy - whether this is down to her soaring soprano vocals, her penchant for literary reference or just the musical innovation going on around her is anyone's guess but instilling a sense of sincerity in lyrics like "I'll send your love to Zeus" is some achievement.
"Wuthering Heights" will be familiar to many already as massive hit everywhere exept the US, the big surprise may come in the fact that a large majority of the songs on "The Kick Inside" maintain the high standards (most notably the wise-before-her-years "Man With the Child in his Eyes" and the over-awingly gorgeous "Move").
It is, however, Bush's unique vocal style that pervades the entire album and is showcased so well, from the supernatural howls of "Wuthering Heights" to the playful squark of "rolling the ball, rolling the ball, rolling the ball to me" on "Them Heavy People" - captivating to say the least.


The Smiths
The Smiths
Price: £7.99

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Smiths at their most raw., 2 Aug 2004
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
Upon first listen I dismissed The Smiths as a distinctly average album by their standards and in comparison to the heights of The Queen is Dead. However, this album above all others has been the biggest grower on me over the course of say a year, and songs that once seemed a little tuneless and overly meandering (Still Ill, Reel Around the Fountain) and hardly up to the pop catchiness of later albums are somehow now more powerful and beautiful than those songs I'd be singing along to as soon as I stuck The Queen is Dead on, or Strangeways Here We Come.
The Smiths is an album that takes a touch of perseverence - perhaps due in part to the legendary under-production, done on only £20,000 after a less than satisfactory effort by Troy Tate. As much as the production is murky and often leaden, it has a charm which lends itself to the sheer darkness and gravity of many of the songs' subjects and lyrics - Morrissey here is exploring child abuse (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle), serial child murder (Suffer Little Children), homosexuality (Hand in Glove) and raw sexuality in general (Reel Around the Fountain). And he handles them with the subtelty only a master poet, backed up by Marr's mesmerising guitarwork, could.
Highlights of the album include "Still Ill", a nostalgic look back at Morrissey's experiences growing up in Manchester, filled with disolution and that wonderful despairing lyric "Am I Still Ill" with the grave feeling of prelongued sickness a terrifying thought when used as an analogy of life. "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is a mesmeric lullaby with a hideous implication of child abuse mixed with terrifying images of shadows looming eerily over a child's bed - the feeling amplified no end by Johnny Marr's subtle and hypnotic guitar hooks.
"This Charming Man" was not included on the original release of the album, and doesn't really fit in with the album as a whole especially in its placing and somewhat more sheeny production. It is, however, a fantastic song and represents a lovely copmbination of catchy guitar and simple yet effective Morrissey lyrics. Indeed, along with "Hand in Glove" (a better version appears on Hatful of Hollow but there isn't too big a difference) these two are really the only true "pop" songs on what is a very indie album.
Ultimately The Smiths represents a darker and rawer side of The Smiths that they never really returned to. Marr's guitarwork is murkier and subtler than on later albums and Morrissey never revisits lyrics as risky and grave as those on "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" or "Suffer Little Children" (a song about the Moors Murders which just about manages to pull off such a serious subject with enough subtelty and grace). It took a long time for the album to grow on me but I now rank it a very close second to The Queen is Dead among The Smith's albums.


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