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C. Wingrove (Kew, TW9)

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Made In The Dark
Made In The Dark
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 12.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hot Chip - Made In The Dark, 19 Feb 2008
This review is from: Made In The Dark (Audio CD)
Hot Chip return to a scene with high hopes for their third LP, distinctly new territory from that encountered when releasing 2006's Mercury-nominated The Warning. That album was released to an audience largley unaware of their charms. Signing to DFA probably helped in the hipster stakes, but the massive expectancy surrounding Made in the Dark can largely be attributed to two huge singles: Over and Over and Boy From School. These two great tracks helped mask some of their parent album's weaknesses: length, derivation and oh-so-clever lyrical flourishes.

Made in the Dark shares some of those weaknesses, certainly the album is a few tracks too long. Strange too, is the proliferation of slower tracks. Not all of them are bad, the title track is a sweet soul number, with a vocal playing to Alexis Taylor's fragile delivery. In complete contrast, the record comes out of the traps at a breathless pace. Out At The Pictures and the two advance singles, Shake A Fist and Ready For The Floor are frenetic, itchy tunes; the kind of thing that the group does so well. I still have a problem with the middle of Shake A Fist, a little too much on the `cool' side for me. Of course, Shake A Fist finishes brilliantly with a fantastic menacing synth rush.

Hold On is one of the LP's highlights, conforming to the scratchy guitar and disco bass formula, extending it with funk rhythms: as if they have been learning about building great dance tracks from their US label boss, James Murphy. Hold On props up the second half of the record, much as No Fit State did on The Warning. When Hot Chip fail, they do spectacularly: Wrestlers and Bendable Poseable are just poor, both suffering from weak production and questionable lyrics: does anyone need a song made up of wrestling terminology? Certainly, Wrestlers particularly contributes to the second half slump, common to the three LPs they have released thus far.

Which is a shame, as when Hot Chip are on form they are a great band. Indeed, there is much to like about Made in the Dark, especially the first half. I'm sure that Taylor and Goddard are aware of what people see Hot Chip's strength as, and respect to them for attempting something different, something that bodes well for a productive future. That doesn't help the feeling that they could have done better with this record, especially given the anticipation surrounding it and their obvious continued potential.

Make This Your Own
Make This Your Own
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: 3.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A State Of Incomprehension, 15 Jan 2007
This review is from: Make This Your Own (Audio CD)
I'I've waited almost four years for this album, with increasing desperation. Dropped by BMG and finally picked out of label-less limbo by Sanctuary, it was looking increasingly bleak for Reading's finest. They were also rocked by the departure of one of the nation's coolest bassists, Didz Hammond. With this aurora of looming disaster, I suppose I should be thankful that the creators of my favourite (`See This Through And Leave') and sixth-favourite (`Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose') albums of all time actually got round to releasing `Make This Your Own' at all.

The album has been preceded by two fine singles; `Damage', a gig and download only promo, and `Homo Sapiens'. These two open the album, and they are straight-out rockers, with a slight more FM-friendly sound than efforts such as `Panzer Attack', `A.I.M' and `Been Training Dogs'. They are in fact similar to the singles pairing off the last album, `Blind Pilots' and `Promises, Promises'. They open the album well enough, but really can't compare to previous openers.

Next up is `Head', a recent live favourite. It opens with brooding menace, and continues with a repeated refrain of `You want to leave, but you can't forget about it' above a glorious synth-riff. This is The Coopers of old, twisting simple melodies into electronic balls of sonic force.

`Connect', which follows, carries on in the same vein. Upon my first listens to the album, I think this is a standout. It rollicks along on a baseline oddly similar to Donna Summer's `I Feel Loved'... and then breaks down into a cracking harmonised chorus. One problem I have with this, and `Head' is that they seem weedily produced. One criticism of previous efforts is that they are over-produced, but these just lack the mid-range and low thump that TCTC used to feature as de rigueur.

`Waiting Game', the third single to be lifted and a narrow Top-40 miss in its first week, is a strange beast. To my ears it sounds like Placebo, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but they shouldn't have to revert to such indie-lite tracks like this, especially with the terribly clichéd guitar solo at the end. Yet despite this, I can't help liking it, in that really catchy, soaring way!!

The next track, `Once More With Feeling' opens with standard practice Coopers bleeps and swipes, and proceeds into a metallic drone. Unfortunately, for all its great sonics, the track just doesn't go anywhere. The problems continue with the next track `What Have You Gone And Done?', again with the vocals sounding like Placebo. The lyrics to this are boring, the music flat, and without this track the album would be so much stronger.

`Take Comfort' is rubbish. It starts with off-kilter drums and acoustic strumming and it doesn't get any better from then. It sounds like the Coral, and again this would be fine if it was from them. But it isn't. It just isn't the Coopers.

Thankfully, `All I See Is You' is them in their full aural assault mode. Again starting slow, with scratchy static noise and bass fades. It builds slowly with a real haunting piano riff, and then in a crescendo of heavy guitar descends into noisy heaven complete with Gautrey trademark wail. Along with `Connect' this is a standout, and would have sat brilliantly on either of the previous efforts.

`Isn't It Strange' starts with a similar burbling synth to `Head', and again is a builder. It also has one of the best vocals on the record, with a strong backing riff.

`House of Cards' opens with church bells ringing in the background, and more vocal harmonising. It is a strong closer, but compared to `Written Apology' it just doesn't compare.

My overall thoughts on this album are mixed. It contains two of TCTC's weakest ever efforts in `What Have You Gone And Done?' and `Take Comfort', yet tracks like `Homo Sapiens', `Head', `Connect' and `All I See Is You' show that beneath the poppy mainstream sheen, the old experimental noisy beast still lurks. It is reckoned that the band wanted to set out to make a more mainstream album, and in that respect they have succeeded.

What irks me the most however, is that for a band renowned for pushing sonic boundaries, they pull back from the brink and step into a comfort zone. I have always felt TCTC are at their best when you are at your most uncomfortable, tracks like `Panzer Attack', `The Lake' and `A.I.M.'. This is a comfortable album, which is strange given the circumstances it was conceived under.

Yet after all this, I still can't help liking this album. For a start, they're still here, live and kicking. It is also an optimistic album; in places it's almost a love album. Its lurch into the mainstream may also buy them security to put another album out. Hopefully, they can make a return to pushing the envelope, and making music that challenges the listener.

Worth the wait? Just. They remain my favourite band, and I shall champion their cause as I have for almost six years now. If it were any other band, I'd give it three stars. But they aren't, so it's four.

Drowning in a Sea of Love
Drowning in a Sea of Love
Price: 12.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nathan Fake - Electro Gloopy Loveliness, 4 Dec 2006
This CD is contains some of the lushest soundscapes ever created. I've read elsewhere that it is refreshing to hear some electronic music that isn't so pretentious to render itself unlistenable, and I think that is true. What Nathan Fake has done here is fashion an album that draws from several of it's peers (Lemon Jelly, Boards of Canada et al) and actually moves the game forward.

The beats that often form the backbone of the tracks are quite hip-hop in their orientation (see highlight 'The Sky Was Pink' for what I mean) and this actually juxtaposes really well with the synth noodlings swirling around them. Somehow the melodies always swing back into place neatly, after seeming to disappear off into the sonic ether. There is also quite a lot of variety in amongst the fluffiness and hints of Bjork ('Fell'), Vitalic ('Grandfathered') and Aphex Twin (bits and blobs throughout) and this holds your attention well.

At various points during this album I am reminded of children's cartoon music, or early Amiga/C64 game music, and I think it's to Fake's credit that this manages to not grate or seem like a novelty. It also manages to bridge the gap successfully between mellow and upbeat, as at home soundtracking a Saturday night out as a Sunday afternoon in.

The definite highlight to this record is the slow fade up and lolloping beat of 'The Sky Was Pink'. It is somewhat disappointing that there are not more tracks that stand out like this, and whereas other tracks like 'Bumblechord' and 'Long Sunny' are fine and dandy, they do tend to merge into the overall scheme of things. Luckily for Fake, and us the listeners, the scheme is a good one.

This definitely matches up to my favourite electronic album of last year, Boards of Canada's excellent 'Campfire Headphase', and hence fully deserves a four-star rating.

Pieces Of The People We Love
Pieces Of The People We Love
Price: 7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars En-Rapture-D, 7 Nov 2006
This, my Amazon-review reading friends, is a real contender for record of the year. That accolade was something lacked by debut, `Echoes' which had some very strong tracks including one of the singles of the new millennium `House of Jealous Lovers'. As a coherent album though, `Echoes' was too full of peaks and troughs, it wasn't even the best album of it's type that year...(Radio 4's `Gotham!' took that honour for me)

Fast forward 3 years, and the NY quartet return with `Pieces of the People We Love'. It sounds straight away like the album `Echoes' should have been. A much more coherent, consistent record than it's predecessor, `Pieces...' in turns prowls, screams, caresses and exhilarates. In some ways, too, it's a much more British album. `Calling Me' has Chemical Brother-esque breakbeats, and there are Gang of Four and PiL references scattered all over the place. There's even hints of British glam in the cracking title track.

I suppose you could argue that there whole ethos is based in the British post-punk sound, but `Echoes' was so New York (DFA's influence?) that this sounds like an entirely different beast. The killer dance tracks are still there, `Get Myself Into It', complete with gratuitous swearing, is the lead-off, insanely catchy single. The infamous cowbell-craziness is in effect on the wonderfully titled `Whoo! Alright Yeah...Uh Huh' and that's as close as it gets to being `Echoes'-type Rapture.

From there-on, the sound is almost melancholy. The two closers, `The Sound' and `Live In Sunshine' are moving, grown-up, fully realised songs and represent just how far The Rapture have come, sonically. In fact, I think `Live In Sunshine' could be the greatest song they have written yet...

This is the first album to receive a five star review from me, and it's fully deserved. This makes a mockery of `second album difficulties' and is one of those rare albums where not one track is skippable. `Echoes' was the kind of album that soundtracked Saturday nights up and down the land. `Pieces...' upholds that, but it goes a bit further...almost taking the night through to comedown. Superb.

Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 3.47

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hermit Mark and other tales of scratchy angular madness..., 2 Nov 2006
My musical relationship with VEGC started at a Dogs gig in sunny Stoke-on-Trent back in the depths of 2005. They appeared as a loose, raw amalgam of the Pixies, Wire and Elastica, but with some really solid pop songs, and a quite frankly brilliant drummer.

Fast forward twelve months and three singles later, and the album arrives. The songs are still indie-pop, short and sweet, but somehow it doesn't work stretched out over an album.

Don't get me wrong, songs like 'Hermit Mark' and 'My Son Spells Backwards' still shine and rattle. The problem comes with others like 'Impossible Sightings Over Shelton', it's over complicated and it just doesn't fit the style of play. Also, sometimes, the likeness to other bands is a little too audible... on 'Dead Anyway' you can almost hear a lawsuit coming from the Pixies! Elsewhere, the bass is fresh and upfront, and there is some truly great drumming.

Live, there is an interplay and drama between the three band members, and this doesn't really come off on record. Adam Taylor's schizoid scream is still evident, and this is backed up with the Kim Deal-esque smooth wail of bassist Louise Mason. It's the tightness of Mason and drummer Emma Daman that really holds the record down, and stops the angular guitar scratchings from sounding too light and distant.

Overall, the record is worth a listen, and they are a band to keep an eye on. The highlight 'The Tales of Hermit Mark' is a gem, and remains one of the singles of the year, but sadly the album is too hit-and-miss to follow in it's footsteps.

Howling Bells
Howling Bells

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Howling Bells, 31 May 2006
This review is from: Howling Bells (Audio CD)
I really enjoyed this CD. It was something of a whirlwind romance with this band...I saw them supporting the Cooper Temple Clause, and bought a 7" of theirs at the gig. Rarely have a support band caught my attention like this. The songs stuck in my head so much I had to go out and buy this album, suffice to say I wasn't disappointed.

I agree with some of the other reviewers, that PJ Harvey comparisons are lazy, but somewhat apt. Cat Power would also be a name to mention as comparable. As always though, the CD is worth more than the sum of it's comparisons and influences.

The music is windswept and dense, with excellent playing from all musicians, and a great singer. Her voice is clear, and soulful and there is no hint of their Australian-ness in the songs. The standout track for me is Low Happening followed closely by Wishing Stone.

Great packaging too!

Offered by cdworld-ireland
Price: 14.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WRM Rocks, 27 April 2006
This review is from: Kick (Audio CD)
This blinding little gem of a CD is truly a revelation.

All at once the sounds of the 80s meld into a truly 21st century sound. 'Deborah Carne' smacks of the Human League, 'Girls In The Back' (surely a contender for single of the year) is poppy in a real Cure-esque gothic way. There's even hints of the Smiths in 'Testcard Girl'. This is before the obvious Joy Division connurtations.

As I said though, don't be fooled by the mining of music past, this CD is fresh and new. For once the hype is close to being justified. The musicianship is tight and rhythmic and they are led along by a singer who yelps a great tune.

The only drawback for me is the lack of truly great choruses, you get the cracker in 'Girls in the Back' and the rest of the tunes on here, great as they are, pass by somewhat androgynously. Maybe that's the charm...

I whole-heartedly recommend this, it's a breathe of sleazy-fresh air in the wake of all the indiealike bands of the moment. Oh, and catch them live whenever you can, the live show is riveting.

Let's Kill Music [CD 1]
Let's Kill Music [CD 1]
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars They don't just kill music, they make some too..., 19 Sep 2003
This review is from: Let's Kill Music [CD 1] (Audio CD)
This is the Cooper's biggest charting single off the 'See This Through...' album, and it's not hard to see why. Personally it's not my favourite of the singles, but it's catchy riffs and shout-along chorus are a sure fire hit in the chart and indie clubs. The poppiest of the Coopers work, and a decent single.

Forever Delayed
Forever Delayed
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.97

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great hits - slightly sanitised., 25 Oct 2002
This review is from: Forever Delayed (Audio CD)
However much everyone decries this album for not representing the old manics enough, I think it is very, very harsh to do what some folks in their reviews, here and in the press to give it pathetically low scores, thats not on. The compilation works well, although why greatest hits contain new songs I'll never know, and all the big hitters are present and correct. After all this is a greatest hits collection, not a pick-your-favourite-from-the-album album! Just enjoy the compilation for the music, and it's darn good music for a fact. The manics however much it is claimed write great singles, 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and most of the EMG singles really do it for me. Ignore the 'sell-out' claims and get this if you are missing any of the albums, if you have them all already then just buy the 'Grace of God' single and you're set!

Hardware Ep/Warfare Ep
Hardware Ep/Warfare Ep
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 13.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb work!!, 24 Oct 2002
This review is from: Hardware Ep/Warfare Ep (Audio CD)
TCTC are quite simply the revelation of the year to me. After the purchase of 'See This Through...' and thoroughly enjoying it, to seeing them live and absolutly loving it to the purchase of these pair of gems. The Hardware EP kicks off with the suberb track 'The Devil Walks In The Sand', which has bass and guitars to absolutely die for, and drums that really kick the EP off to a great start...
Track 2 'Solitude' - an instrumental, something TCTC are surprisingly good at, feels as it will explode at any time again superb drumming!
Track 3 'Safe Enough Distance' - slower a la 'The Lake' and although it deviates away from what I feel their strongpoints are, it is nevertheless a decent song.
4 - 'Sister Soul'again slower, sounding quite Radioheadesque but don't be put off by this, a very good tune.
The Warfare EP kicks off with a true work of genius, the excellent Panzer Attack. Very much a love or hate tune - see it live however and I guarantee you'll love it, even my Divine Comedy loving friend who despises this track recorded, felt that it was good live! Not much more is needed to be said except that its a full on assault that most definitely needs high volume!
'I'll still write' sees the Coopers hit the skids with a slower track, delicate and quiet its a departure from the opener, and probably the weakest track over the 2 EPs.
'Mansell' is a moody closer, and is back on the quick track! Drumming to die for and bass that hits the message home it closes the set well.
Overall 2 very good EPs, with the two opening tracks from the Hardware EP a must own. Of course if you liked the album you'll love this. Four stars only however as it doesn't quite have te punch of the album, and I wouldn't recommend it as first listening, its too eclectic, try the album first!

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