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M. Brown (Cardiff United Kingdom)
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Very Best Of
Very Best Of
Price: £6.25

3.0 out of 5 stars A cash-in yes, but superior to the others, 7 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Very Best Of (Audio CD)
This is in fact better than some Morrissey compilations, like the shoddy best of that had him adoring himself with eyes closed on the cover, a terrible comp, and clearly not the best of his solo work, consisting as it did almost entirely of his comeback stuff, and featuring two mediocre new tracks that later appeared on the underwhelming (but as usual underrated) Years of Refusal. This one has a great cover, and Interlude without Siouxsie's annoying vocals (their voices really never went together, did they?) I love Morrissey's vocal on this track, but much as I like Siouxsie's work in general, not a good vocal here . . . clumsy. And yes, we can all compile our own Morrissey compilations, and I rediscovered my own burned CD comp after years of neglect. I compiled it myself, yet I disagree with it in retrospect! I can't understand why I didn't include Girl Least Likely To, which is and always has been a big favourite of mine (and written with Andy Rourke of course). It's indulgent of the other reviewer to give his own full compilation, but wholly typical of a Mozhead. I disagree with it in large part. Why no Late Night Maudlin Street, his epic classic? Why no Little Man What Now (which opens my own comp marvellously)? Was Speedway on the comp? I can't remember, but it should have been. Also Trouble Loves Me, although that was an Island release, admittedly . . . but the penultimate track on my own comp (followed of course by Speedway). Not forgetting the ultra-sublime Nobody Loves Us! One of his greatest ever tracks! And Boy Racer. etc, etc (as Morrissey once sung so memorably). There's a treasure trove in the back catalogue, and it's nice to see tracks such as 'Girl...' and 'Break Up The Family' included here, along with the beautiful and perfect 'I've Changed My Plea To Guilty' which contains one of Moz's greatest ever vocals and was far superior to anything that made the Kill Uncle album . . . as they are seminal Morrissey. No Picadilly Palare, his queerest single (and I don't mean strangest), no Sunny . . . which is disappointing. Ouija is still rubbish of course, and Interesting Drug average. So it's a decent comp, but certainly not as good as MY comp, and my comp isn't as good as I would have wished it to be. Mine does include the live version of Sister I'm A Poet, which is cooler than the studio version. If anyone disagrees we can take it outside. You don't have to buy this comp do you? And you do get a DVD of music videos. These comps happen with every pop star; you shouldn't hold it against him . . . he's making his living, I'm sure you would do the same despite your high principles, and Morrissey fans shouldn't be gullible enough to buy every cash-in that comes along. There's no desperate need to buy this comp, but if you fancy a Morrissey comp, along with an expansive collection of videos, this is as good as any that have been officially released (which may not be saying that much, but I think it's true anyhow). I understand the addiction, but please boys and girls, control your urges.


World Peace Is None Of Your Business
World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genius still intact, then, 6 Dec. 2014
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While not Morrissey's greatest album, this is still an invigorating addition to the (substantial, bulging) catalogue. The fact that his music is becoming more Latin in flavour all the time, is unexpected, even surreal, but given the make-up of his band, a somewhat natural development. I don't think any fan could have imagined him singing such mournful lyrics as 'Earth is the Loneliest Planet of All' to an uptempo flamenco-drenched backing track, ten years ago, but such is life. It's certainly peculiar, and yet he kind of pulls it off. Still not one of the better tracks on the album though . . . could have been a big hit if Harvest had given a toss about the recordings. Oh well another record label dispensed with . . . how many can he get through before his unthinkable death? It's exciting on this album to hear him being really vocally ingenious again, like he was back in mideighties prime, particularly on 'I'm Not A Man'. The lyric though is a bit predictable for the Moz, as he's essentially repeating everything he's ever said (overfamiliarity also threatens with Kick The Bride Down The Aisle, which is basically a lyrical reworking of William It Was Really Nothing . . . a misogynistic but comic portrait of woman as ensnarer of the previously footloose and fancy free bachelor within the dreaded institution of marriage; if one took a Freudian position, it reflects Morrissey's fear of the vagina, viewing it as a kind of Venus flytrap from which you never can escape; this fear is sublimated through the symbol of marriage as an imprisonment of the male . . . end of lecture). Neal Cassady spotlights Morrissey's own Northern version of rapping, which is highly entertaining, and inevitably, morbid. This is in fact one of Morrissey's funniest albums, not just when he speaks of Allen Ginsberg's tears shampooing his beard, but in the strangely jovial account of student suicide in Staircase At The University, one of his best pop tunes possibly ever. His impersonation of an implacable northern father is priceless ('as far as I'm concerned you're dead'), and all too accurate. He was known in his youth as an accurate imitator of the northern way of life, and nothing's changed. Kiss Me A Lot is one of those curious lightweight pop throwaways that Morrissey has always been capable of, though his vocal seems a bit garbled here (not the only instance). One notes that his pronunciation at times is not what it was; perhaps due to his global traveller status . . . tends to curl his r's alot, you will note. Smiler With Knife is a dark beautiful ballad, fatalistic in typical Morrissey fashion, and let's be honest, homoerotic, but it's somewhat spoiled by a vocal clanger on the second 'alight' where his voice breaks, something I'm sure he wouldn't have let stand in his heyday, but perhaps he doesn't care all that much about mistakes now. Mountjoy contains his deepest and most world-weary lyric; it's a vintage sample of Morrissey's realistic world view, and his endless sympathy for the ghastly human condition (something people like to overlook). Morrissey has always empathised with those who suffer in life, because he feels he has suffered greatly himself (some might argue that is mostly self-inflicted, but I would argue otherwise). Am I the only person to sense an underlying ambivalence in The Bullfighter Dies? As if part of him can't celebrate the death of a bullfighter? Why else say 'you' rather than 'I'? It puts him at a distance from the gleeful emotions. All serious fans will also own the extra disc of material, which is not exactly stingy like some extra discs you get. There are some really great things here, stuff that on another day could have made the album. The only reprehensible moment comes with the keyboards on Forgive Someone (Mozzer never would have allowed this twenty years ago!). My personal favourites are the final two, Julie in the Weeds and Art - Hounds, the latter being a classic Morrissey anthem of the bookish and disenfranchised. (How great is it when he sings, 'In European hushed museums, will I see yer, will I see yer, will I see yer?' and in strained falsetto, 'My life is a fraud!') I love this song to death. Julie is a thing of real beauty, a poignant Morrissey croon topping in pastoral beauty the lyrically lovely Drag The River. Is it 'Forgive Someone' that contains that wonderful section about showers that don't work and behind the bleachers and the woman who opens herself to him (literally) and says 'Here's something you'll never have'? This is a seminal (in every sense) Morrissey moment . . . wonderful. So much to praise if you take the eighteen tracks as a whole offering . . . only a few minor quibbles, and the fact that these aren't generally Morrissey 's very best lyrics (we're talking about a lyrical genius here . . . alot's expected). But nevermind, nevermind. If you don't love this man, it's because he doesn't want you to love him. He would be glad of this. Those who do love him, understand him, or rather, think they do. And that's all that really matters. You're going to miss him when he's gone.


For the Recently Found Innocent
For the Recently Found Innocent
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cleaning up his act, unfortunately, 4 Dec. 2014
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The other review is not exactly helpful, as it appears to be ignorant of the other White Fence releases. This album is not 'lo-fi' in the way that the earlier White Fence albums are lo-fi. Maybe it's lo-fi if you compare it to the latest Coldplay album or some rubbish like that. This is White Fence's first proper studio album, having gained promotion to a top indie label (Drag City). The previous albums were recorded somewhat muddily at home on four track, and this cheap low fidelity sound was one of their central appeals. When you clean up the sound, the songs necessarily have to be a bit stronger, as there's nothing to hide behind, and to be fair, Tim Presley serves up a pretty good collection of pop songs here, although the invention of the previous work is largely absent. It was probably inevitable that he would take that step towards mainstream respectability, the way various other maverick acts have also, but I still wish he was recording on his four track, regardless of whether the results were particularly listenable or not. He can still go back to that, I guess, but I don't know whether he will or not. To appreciate his muse at its inventive peak get 'Is Growing Up' and 'Family Perfume vols 1 and 2 ' (the latter seventy nine minutes of loose and magical lofi sixties-influenced nonsense). This album is worth having if you're a fan of the guy's work, it's pretty solid fare from start to finish with Arrow Man possibly topping the bill, but the earlier stuff was just more compelling, in my opinion.


Soused
Soused
Price: £9.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appendix, 21 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Soused (Audio CD)
This is quite interesting if you consider it as an appendix to his main body of work, but as an album statement, it falls well short of the previous three visionary masterworks. The fact is he pulls all the same tricks here that he did on the previous three albums (there's nothing here he didn't already do better previously). Herod 2014 is easily the most musically boring thing he has ever recorded, and it really goes nowhere at all in its twelve monotonous minutes. Lullaby is a rehash of the composition he did for Ute Lemper a decade back, which is unnecessary as her version, supervised by Scott himself, is perfection. Interesting to hear Scott sing it finally, but nothing more than interesting. At just forty eight minutes in length, it feels more like a novella than a novel, or a short book of longish stories. Or perhaps more accurately, a collection of outtakes. Which is fine for the Walkerholic, and his voice is in fine form here. But I don't believe this release will be considered too important when people look back on the entirety of his career. Can't bring myself to give Scott only three stars, although compared to previous works, that is all this release warrants. The other reviewers need to view it in this rational light.


Carthage
Carthage
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America's greatest living writer, 9 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Carthage (Paperback)
Joyce Carol Oates, America's greatest living writer, rarely fails to deliver a compelling and emotionally engaging novel, and that is certainly the case with Carthage. The story is one of her best, and the structure of the work is truly masterful (she has always fixated on the structure of novels, occasionally to the detriment of other aspects), but stylistically speaking, it's not one of her finest accomplishments, as the quality of the writing varies throughout the work. There are some truly clumsy sentence constructions here, which occasionally hinder the reading experience. I agree with another reviewer that the novel seems rushed through; one gets the feeling as her mortality grows ever closer that she's not as fastidious in her revisions as she once was, which is kind of understandable. And yet there are passages in this novel that are close to sublime, foremost being the account of Cressida's time spent in Florida, which has a different mood from the rest of the novel. The mystery present in the novel has nothing to do with the disappearance, but rather with the dynamics of the family, any family, and the way changes wrought on it by circumstance and fate mangle these dynamics and make life a constant bewilderment. JCO said in a past interview that her books are not sending a specific message to the reader, as she is not a propagandist, but that is not strictly true. One of the main thrusts of this book is her scorn and contempt for American involvement in the Iraq war and the blind patriotism that followed on from 9/11. Witness the relish with which she describes the horrors and callous behaviour of soldiers in that war. However the characters are always the main motive for Oates, and the way she unfolds the inner lives of the characters in this book is superb, as ever. The way the work builds and builds to its (tentative) resolution is really a lesson from a literary master, and it's good that she never completely satisfies the simplest wish of the reader, the way a substandard writer would do. Life is too complex to have happy endings. Oates understands this better than any other writer. And this work is a frequently thrilling and draining testament to that complexity. The ultimate message of this work, if there is one, is that human beings are all groping blindly through the darkness, trying to make some sense out of the cards dealt to them. We are all wounded by experience to some extent, and the truth and fascination reside in how we deal with that wounding, how we react and cope, and how we seek some kind of redemptive resolution to it. Carthage portrays this process better than any recent novel, and that is ultimately where its value lies.


The Accursed
The Accursed
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Visions Of A Genius, 22 July 2014
This review is from: The Accursed (Paperback)
This is one of JCO's less readable works, but it's worth slogging through it to the end, because despite its pockets of boredom, it's a marvellous imaginative experience. Far better to have this kind of oddball Gothic novel from her, with its bizarre and infectious humour, than the more mainstream work like We Were The Mulvaneys, which I gave up reading quite early on. I recommend reading her early work like Them and Wonderland, as the purity of style is absent from the later works, excellent though they are. At some point her writing developed certain linguistic tics, the most irritating of which is 'only just' when 'only' or 'just' would have been adequate. It feels like some kind of colloquial inheritance of hers. Another she likes to use quite often is 'it was so' at the beginning of paragraphs or sentences in general. She keeps these tics to a relative minimum here, but there are still numerous mistakes that an assiduous editor would have removed. For instance, why is Ellen Wilson (the wife of Woodrow Wilson) at least twice referred to as Ellen West? Bizarre. Also at one point a reference is made to the rise of the women's movement, but it refers to the nineteen sixties, when in fact it's supposed to be the eighteen sixties. Having carped about these things, JCO is really the only living writer I will constantly read, because she's the only one that really matters. She remains a master of style and tone, and of course of characterisation. I love the searingly negative portrait of Jack London spouting out his repulsive racist attitudes, and the endearing portrait of the overly earnest Socialist and novelist Upton Sinclair. Yes, he's naive and unable to look after his wife, but one can't help but admire a figure who genuinely believed in what he did, unlike the odious Jack London. I even feel some sympathy for Woodrow Wilson in this portrait, despite his chauvinism and light-hearted racist banter, simply because of his level of confusion, his sense of being beleaguered at the university, and his catalogue of illnesses. You get the sense of the characters being imprisoned by the general ignorance (social, political, medical, cultural) of their time, of them being victims of their forebears, of being fundamentally doomed. If anyone wants to experience the true Oates, then you will find it here, more than in her social-realist depictions of family lives torn asunder. You will also find it alot in her ferociously intense short stories. She is literature's only living genius, so the least any serious reader can do is sit through this vast eccentric tome. By the end any intelligent reader will be glad they made the effort, considerable though it is.


Ultraviolence
Ultraviolence
Price: £4.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly an unalloyed pleasure, 20 July 2014
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This review is from: Ultraviolence (Audio CD)
Surprised people haven't reacted to the lyric of the title track, and it's somewhat reprehensible promotion of domestic violence as something glamorous and desirable. I understand her need to be provocative, and I'm devoted to the woman, but she certainly went too far with this one, although one could to point to a scene from Blue Velvet as perhaps inspiration for this piece. As for the album itself, it's a touch underwhelming considering the material she delivered on the Paradise Edition of Born To Die. But it is in fact a very fine work, especially within the current pop genre, it's almost suicidal in its brave approach, but one pines somewhat for the seared into your brain melodies of Video Games and Born To Die. This is probably as uncommercial as Lana is capable of being. One of her greatest gifts is her ability to conjure magical melodies seemingly out of nowhere, but that gift is absent to a certain degree on this album. The first track is also way too long, and the tracks in general stay around too long. West Coast is spoiled to a degree by the tempo of the drums being too slow on the chorus; I keep wishing I had a device that could speed the damn thing up. I would also criticise her decision not to print more than fragments of her lyrics, as it smacks a bit of cowardice (or lack of confidence), one or the other. On the plus side there's the exquisite Shades of Blue, where Lana again channels her inner Liz Fraser (see also, Bel Air from Paradise). If I was being harsh, I would say she was kind of stealing stuff from Cocteau Twins, but I really like the fact she would even go there with her voice. Her vocals are generally superior on this album to those on Born To Die. It's also agreeable that she's dumped the whole hip-hop shtick, as entertaining as it was. I really love the playfulness and coolness of Brooklyn Baby (which is the only true single on the album in my view), though I would question the accuracy of her satire here. Speaking of satire, it is largely absent from this album, although F'd My Way Up To The Top is very amusing (I can't believe she wrote a song with that title; it's a classic). The album really reaches its pinnacle with Old Money, which is an incredibly personal and intimate ballad, one of her very best songs, even if the melody is not exactly original. You find here the core of what makes Lana unique. Some may argue what does a wealthy person have to feel melancholy about? But the very fact that she was materially blessed but is clearly maladjusted is what makes her such a vital and original artist. Nobody else could have written this song. Some have criticised her vocal performance on the cover version, The Other Woman, and admittedly when I first heard it, I thought it was over the top and a bit ridiculous, but my view has changed since then, so much so that I can't help thinking that she should do an album of cover versions next. Finishing the album in this way is eccentric and genius, and yes, despite what anyone says, Lana is a genius. It's a bit regrettable though that she no longer co-writes with the guy who helped her conceive Video Games and Born To Die. As for the bonus tracks, only Black Beauty is worth having in my opinion. The other two are B-sides at best. In conclusion, Lana is still one of the most remarkable women on the planet, but she's no longer pretending to be a hit-maker. I guess she's making music for herself, which is all she should ever really be doing. But it isn't exactly an unalloyed pleasure, and I have some sympathy for those who preferred Born To Die (although the Paradise recordings were really the peak of her work to date). The album requires patience, more than anything.


Motivational Jumpsuit
Motivational Jumpsuit
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most consistent one, 2 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Motivational Jumpsuit (Audio CD)
I disagree with the other reviewer about the previous four GBV albums. I'm convinced that Let's Go Eat the Factory is the one that is truest to the GBV spirit, and contains more of that spirit than the subsequent albums. Song for song it may not have been the strongest, but as an overall experience I enjoy it the most. The second album in the sequence, Class Clown, was somewhat disappointing in comparison, The Bears For Lunch was pretty strong for the most part, but not quintessentially GBV in its feel, fine work though it is. English Little League again was a touch disappointing, mainly due to the way it tails off over the second half with at least one too many lo-fi piano pieces (you could cut both of them off, and it would be a better album). Fans can't really find fault with this latest effort, as it's strong from start to finish without any noticeable throwaways. But I don't necessarily thing the album contains any true GBV classics (the closer, Alex And The Omegas, probably comes closest to getting that honour). The past few albums suffer somewhat from the fact that Tobin performs and records his tracks on his own, so they tend to sound pedestrian in performance, in contrast to the full band recordings. A minor complaint, because Tobin is a key figure in the GBV picture, it's just a pity he couldn't integrate more with the rest of them, to create a consistent sound and attitude (and these latest songs of his are far from his best, in my opinion). Pollard is the master of course, and he delivers his usual excellence here, although not in his very top gear (some others may disagree, but that's due to temporary amnesia). Like I say,a very consistent and satisfying collection. But I don't know that I would put it in the top five of GBV albums.


When Machines Attack
When Machines Attack
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Psych excellence, 2 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: When Machines Attack (Audio CD)
Of the two Circus Devils albums released simultaneously (the other being My Mind Has Seen The White Trick) this is easily the better and more listenable of the two. It's better because the sound is less ugly, the content is more texturally colourful, and the songs - if they can be called songs - are more entertaining. The album is also significantly more psych than the other one. Pollard is significantly funnier on the Circus Devils material than elsewhere, and ultimately more playful. The melodies are kept to a minimum on both albums, which is no doubt a shame for those who thought Gringo was their best album and a new phase for Circus Devils music (I don't personally think it was the best one, despite the handful of very fine songs it contained, because it also featured some substandard guff). The real Circus Devils identity can be found on albums like Sgt Disco and Mother Skinny, and this album too. All challenging but focused albums, which mix humour, psych, dark interludes and experimental sounds. If you like the Circus Devils catalogue, you will like this album.


Blazing Gentlemen
Blazing Gentlemen
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Robert on semi-auto-pilot, 2 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Blazing Gentlemen (MP3 Download)
This is another middling entry in Pollard's solo cannon, but better than some of them (for instance Elephant Jokes and Space City Kicks). The album suffers somewhat from a lack of slow numbers, although it conversely benefits at times from a crisp and zippy approach; but I can't help feeling that some of the shorter tracks are too short for their own good, and the title track goes on a minute longer than is necessary. It is in fact one of Robert's shortest albums (a guy who specialises in short albums, as a rule). For some reason Robert splits the album into two groups of songs (Blazing Gentlemen and My Museum Needs An Elevator), and I suppose it makes sense to the degree that the first group of songs, excepting the opening number, feel like Robert on auto-pilot. Very accomplished in their way, the songs fail to grab the listener, or at least this listener. The second group of songs highlights the slightly lacklustre quality of the first group of songs, as there's more energy and confidence in them, and you remember what Robert can do when he finds his mojo. Unfortunately the album finishes in slightly lacklustre fashion, and the overall impression is that not quite enough was offered (not just in terms of duration, but in terms of memorable songs). But as Robert is a true genius, I have to give four stars, rather than the three stars the album probably deserves, since even Pollard on an average outing is far better than most other music artists. The new GBV album is significantly better than this, but then that's only to be expected. If you're an admirer of the great man, you will buy this and not complain; even his lesser albums exert a power and influence over time. He is more prolific than ever, and for that we have to be grateful, and hope it continues for another couple of centuries at least.


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