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Kelvin Dickinson (Leeds, England)
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New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)
Price: £5.31

5.0 out of 5 stars AURUM SILENTIUM, 25 Mar. 2015
NEW GOLD DREAM shimmers with New Wave experimentalism. The soundscape is wide and full of dreamy textures, above which JIM KERR's haunting vocals weave in and out like some spirit in the material world. (Slightly weird thought interruption: I wonder if he voted for Scottish Independence, because JK has become a dead ringer for Alex Salmond in the intervening years). Moving on...

STANDOUT TRACKS
1. Someone, Somewhere in Summertime
4. Big Sleep
5. Somebody Up There Likes You
6. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Despite coming from a transitional period - the move towards a bigger sound and correspondingly bigger venues - this is SIMPLE MINDS at their glittering best. Aurum Silentium? Gold perfection.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Best Of The Specials
The Best Of The Specials
Price: £6.04

5.0 out of 5 stars SPECIAL INDEED, 25 Mar. 2015
Play GHOST TOWN or STEREOTYPE or stunning debut single GANGSTERS and relive again those heady days of the late seventies/early eighties. More than anything the songs on this superb compilation sum up perfectly the culture of social unrest present in much of Margaret Thatcher's Brave New Britain. For many people life was pretty volatile - due, in no small part, to high unemployment, the poll tax, and the threat (or so we believed at the time) of nuclear armageddon, resulting in an unexpectedly energised left-wing protest movement of which I was a (fairly) active member for a while. That's not to say protesting against the Tory Government was an unrelentingly po-faced endeavour. No, there was a lot of fun to be had simply carrying banners and chanting primitive slogans outside the Houses of Parliament. But that was then.

See? That's just part of what this album does so well. TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG, NITE KLUB, RAT RACE, FRIDAY NIGHT SATURDAY MORNING...THE BEST OF THE SPECIALS is a scathing period piece and a recognisably human portrait of life, kitchen sinks and all. Yes, you had to be there, but forty-five or older, then you probably were; it just depends on which side of the fence you belonged.

Coventry boys JERRY DAMMERS, TERRY HALL and THE SPECIALS have provided us with the most evocative SKA/PUNK music you could ever wish to hear.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Chasing Yesterday
Chasing Yesterday
Price: £13.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FIXED ALTITUDE, 25 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Chasing Yesterday (Audio CD)
Make no mistake, this is a very good album, but it feels sooo 'constructed'. That is not a criticism, per se, it's just a consequence of the musical relationship the solo NOEL GALLAGHER initiates with the listener; the overriding sense that you know exactly where you are, where you've been and where you're headed with his compositions. But still it's a four star product...of course it is. Okay, here are ten things I think you should know about CHASING YESTERDAY. In no particular order, no sir.

1: It is exactly as good as his debut album, no better and no worse, but with added saxophone noodles and honks.
2: 'The Ballad Of The Mighty I' is the best song here and undoubtedly why it was chosen as a single. It's also got a beautiful middle eight, which reminds me of 'Cross Country' from 'International Velvet', the soundtrack by Francis Lai. Eh? Youtube.
3: 'Riverman' and 'The Right Stuff' sound like a stroll down Lower East Side Manhattan at 3am, a little the worse for wear and catching the sounds coming from a small neon-lit bar. Still not quite as intoxicating as it should be, however.
4: 'Lock All The Doors' is Noel reminding us that he was once in a band who were quite good back in the day...whatever they were called. Wasn't there some other guy in it who was a bit of a d-k but sang quite well?
5: Two blokes/bros with beards - who could be interchangeable in a police line-up - form the rest of Noel's High Flying Birds. They're very solid musicians and, if appearances are anything to go by, equally at home on Terra Firma...unlike your average high flying bird, for example.
6: I was surprised at how quickly I got to know the songs and which ones were played most often. Tracks 10 and 1-4, although that could change with time.
7: More backing singers this time around, particularly on 'In The Heat Of The Moment'. It works, but best keep an eye on them as they have a nasty habit of breeding if not reined in, and what started out as a bit of vocal augmentation may yet turn into a choir. If so, 'Chasing Royalties' might be more than just a title suggestion for the 'difficult' third album to come.
8: If only there was a little less precision and a little more looseness to the proceedings...this would have been a no-brainer five star review. Maybe next time.
9: Apologies if the above seems harsh or flippant, I'm only trying to highlight a few small issues. In the end, though, the bottom line is simple-
10: Buy it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


LOCKED OUT FROM THE INSIDE(reissue)(digi-pak)
LOCKED OUT FROM THE INSIDE(reissue)(digi-pak)
Offered by TOMMY's STORE
Price: £16.26

5.0 out of 5 stars CRYSTALLINE SLEDGEHAMMER, 4 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A hugely accomplished album, the levels of artistry and craftsmanship on LOCKED OUT FROM THE INSIDE show NINE BLACK ALPS at their creative best. This is the one where hackneyed comparisons are ditched and they find their true identity and individual voice - which is collectively Deep, Heavy and Loud. Yet also subtle and nuanced. And that's what I love about this band. The low frequencies may hurt your eardrums, particularly on 'Salt Water', 'Every Photograph Steals Your Soul' and 'Buy Nothing' but they're counterbalanced by songs as beautiful and reflective as 'Silence Kills', 'Bay of Angels' and 'Ghost In The City'. A crystalline sledgehammer is the only way I can describe the cumulative effect on the senses.

There's no Buzzcocksian-influenced numbers this time around but 'Full Moon Summer' tips its hat towards 'Street Of Dreams' by The Damned, and 'Silence Kills' is a golden slab of masonry from 'Wall'-era Pink Floyd. 'Porcupine' is slightly hampered by a progressively whiny guitar solo (which grates badly in its final five seconds) but the song's a survivor and a high-volume delight.

Killer choruses abound, 'Salt Water', 'Along For The Ride', 'Vampire In The Sun', something NBA have developed into a fine art on the supposedly 'difficult third album' and accompanying syndrome. Sam Forrest's vocals are strong and a lynchpin to the musicianship which is equally inspired. Lyrically, the darker tones, of which there are many, are punctuated with a trademark sense of humour and the whole thing is topped off by a production that is clear and exciting, ready to throw you happily through a plate-glass window (after having first slapped you hard in the solar-plexus, of course). 'Locked Out From The Inside', or LOFTI, as I've come to know it, is the ultimate Nine Black Alps achievement.

The gatefold sleeve (my favourite NBA artwork) is a colourfully creepy night sky affair, with ominous clouds and some kind of dark satanic mill in the foreground, disturbing imagery that if stared at for too long...I can only imagine the effect the 12" vinyl cover might have on someone who reads too much into such things. Not me, of course.

Just two things perplex: Why aren't there more reviews on here for this magnificent re-issue? And does it really have to be imported from Japan? Answers on an appropriate postcard, please. Whatever the case, and this is the crucial four word summary...You must buy it.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Wrong Mans - Series 1-2 [DVD]
The Wrong Mans - Series 1-2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Corden
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...BUT NOT THE WRONG HANDS, 11 Feb. 2015
Yes, really, THE WRONG MANS is like a Laurel & Hardy two-reeler, but with added noir, violence and expletives. From the smallest of plot devices (literally, a mobile phone) the story escalates into an insane international caper by placing two loveable clowns (JAMES CORDEN and MATHEW BAYNTON) into the scariest situations imaginable. That they manage to navigate through it all AND make it back home is testament to a clever and largely unpredictable script. In the wrong hands this could have been such a dud, but it's the polar opposite because Corden and Baynton clearly know their way around any number of classic indie thrillers - right down to each episode's opening titles - and the Cohen brothers, in particular, seem to have been most often within the pair's telescopic sights. Series 2 opens in the State of Texas and it's obvious from the first couple of minutes that not only is the US No Country For Old Men, or Mans, but it's even less of a 'preferred destination' for the boys from Bracknell, Berkshire.

The comparisons with L&H continue, however, with glazed expressions and dumb logic, ridiculous explanations to get out of a tight spot and, somehow, the guiding hand of luck, which is neither unwelcome nor forced. That, and the fact these two ordinary council workers genuinely care for each other, raises the stakes and provides us with an emotional rollercoaster of comedy and drama and VERY black humour. You'll laugh, you'll wince, you may even shed a tear, but the five hour journey is worth every last (often bloody) twist and turn. THE WRONG MANS is an unashamedly cinematic tv triumph.

Stan and Ollie/Corden and Baynton, I (expletive) kid you not.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Sirens
Sirens
Price: £28.47

3.0 out of 5 stars SO NOT THE SOUND OF SIRENS, 5 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sirens (Audio CD)
Fine artwork and packaging but hard to rate this more than 3 stars because only two songs stand out from a sadly mediocre collection. I think the problem with SIRENS is the spark that made NINE BLACK ALPS' first three albums great is largely missing here. Sam Forrest's voice doesn't punch through like it did previously and the vocal melodies are not adventurous enough as a result, seemingly bound to the chord changes - you kind of know what's coming, and that's hard to take because I really like this band.

The production is mostly standard thrash, not much subtlety, a bit fuzzy. The sole exception is track 4 - an unexpected diversion along a by now well-beaten path. Beautiful, evocative guitars and perfectly layered vocals create the soundtrack to a distant city at night and the fractured relationships within. PHOSPHORESENCE has presence and power and is so good it really ought to be something like that. Anyway, just close your eyes and play it LOUD. (Note: if you happen to be driving maybe just play it loud?)

WAITING ROOM is the other gem. Acoustic, plaintive, superb.

There are perhaps two other numbers which make the cut: MY ONE AND ONLY and WHAT YOU WANTED but, once again, Sam's delivery is clearly a bit of a struggle despite being double-tracked, making favourable comparisons with 'Everything Is' and 'Love/Hate all the more difficult. So, nothing much else to say except buy this 2012 album for tracks 4 and 6, play the rest of course, but savour those two wonderful moments in particular.

RECOMMENDED


Of Skins & Heart
Of Skins & Heart
Price: £11.32

5.0 out of 5 stars DOWN UNDER ON HIGH, 5 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Of Skins & Heart (Audio CD)
OF SKINS AND HEART is the brilliant 1981 debut by Australian band THE CHURCH. And I still maintain to this day that they were as good as, if not better than, INXS with their driving and melodic pop/rock sound. It's a subjective opinion, of course, especially when you take into account the latter's sales and worldwide popularity, but still...

This is an album chock full of psychedelic, lyrical imagery, jangling guitars and husky vocals (courtesy of STEVE KILBEY, complete with refreshing Antipodean twang). Every element gels perfectly AND on their first attempt, no less, resulting in a collection of songs as potent - if not quite as well defined - as anything to be found on KICK. There, said it.

CHROME INJURY
FOR A MOMENT WE'RE STRANGERS
THE UNGUARDED MOMENT
MEMORIES IN FUTURE TENSE

These songs in particular stand out and possess a melodic hook so compelling you're sucked in almost without effort straight away. And only marginally lesser material rounds off the album. The production is recognisably 80's but still sounds good today and The Church come across with power and presence, so nothing about OF SKINS AND HEART is sub-par. Trivia note: FIGHTER PILOT...KOREAN WAR was replaced by TEAR IT ALL AWAY on the original UK release.

Amazingly, The Church are still knocking songs out today but it's an altogether more trippy and grungy affair, due as much to advancing age as musical progression. For me, the early-to-mid stuff stands the march of time best (follow-up album THE BLURRED CRUSADE, classic tracks such as TANTALISED and UNDER THE MILKY WAY, for example) but, as with all things musical, you need to hear it for yourself.

I don't remember being an atheist for long.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Punk Singles 1977-1980
The Punk Singles 1977-1980
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK OK OK, 2 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are two brilliant songs on this 999 singles album, 'Homicide' and 'Soldier', both muscular, three Shredded Wheat affairs (the former containing a blistering guitar solo, the latter an unexpectedly macho singalong). But after that, meh, nothing much else comes close. 'Nasty Nasty' and 'Emergency' are the default obvious other choices - the remaining 17 are, by contrast, seriously underwhelming. And tinny and primitive production values on the early numbers probably don't do any favours either. The band play consistently well, however, and vocalist Nick Cash sounds like a cross between a cartoon chipmunk and an evil Noddy Holder (particularly on 'Homicide'), which makes this package kind of weirdly attractive on a whole 'nother level.

One single, two perfect punk songs, and a bunch of by-the-numbers late seventies thrashes, I should be disappointed...but I'm not - it's a call still worth making.

RECOMMENDED


Love/Hate
Love/Hate
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREAT DIVIDE, 12 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Love/Hate (Audio CD)
Well, at least if opinion is anything to go by. But make no mistake, 'Love/Hate' is a superb follow-up to 'Everything Is', it just requires a little longer to get used to, that's all. It is, of course, a given that bands evolve and their sound changes but the essence of what made NINE BLACK ALPS so damn adrenal in the first place is still very much in evidence here.

'Bitter End' opens the album and, I have to say, at first I was a little concerned that the jagged edges so raw and exposed on their debut had been softened beyond rightful expectation. Common sense and logic soon prevailed, however; more a case of the band presenting a deliberately mainstream production with the emphasis on melody, and possibly a shot at the charts to boot. So I needn't have worried, it's still a good song. 'Burn Faster' and every track thereafter - with the sole exception of 'Future Wife' (can't pin it down, just plain bleurghh) - shows that they have not lost sight of their reason to exist at very high volumes. And as did 'Just Friends' previously, so did 'So In Love' once again evoke the ghost of Buzzcocks, circa 1978, easily recreating that initial nostalgic smile and a distant urge to, er, pogo (look it up). But the standouts this time around shine very brightly indeed and are the very apt 'Happiness And satisfaction' and 'Heavier Than water'.

Pop/rock/grunge/indie brilliance - love 'em or hate 'em, you really shouldn't ignore them.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Education, Education, Education & War
Education, Education, Education & War
Price: £4.99

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FULL MARKS AND BANG ON, 3 April 2014
So, just imagine you're sitting an exam and this question comes up: Summarise in bullet points the KAISER CHIEFS' new album, EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION & WAR. Yes, happy to do that, makes a pleasant change from Lord of the Flies. Okay, thirty minutes, shhh, here we go...

* Tony Blair probably won't appreciate the clever title, so that's a good start. In my opinion, of course.
* Unusual WW1 and beyond-style artwork for the insert but it does reinforce the working-class call to duty theme throughout. No pics of the boys this time around either, unless there's more to those line drawings than meets the eye. No offence, but if so then your guess is as good as mine (suggest no-one lets the artist stray into any high court proceedings as it could only end in confusion and disappointment).
* Ten songs, seven of which are simply excellent. The remaining three 'Coming Home', 'Meanwhile Up In Heaven' and 'Roses' are okay but lack that certain Kaiser something. The singles chart may disagree with two thirds of that analysis, however.
* Bill Nighy may be the new, er, Pete Best (the sixth Kaiser?), judging from his performance in 'Cannons'. Heavy and quite weird, Bill, was there a temptingly helium-filled balloon nearby? 'Cannons' is also the almost-title track, a major pulse-thumping epic. Note to all dwarf-druids: this could turn out to be the new 'Stonehenge', so don't knock it.
* Hard and driving pop music permeates the majority of this album and thank God the quirkiness is still there for all to hear (see directly above). It's what makes the Kaiser Chiefs special.
* A few catchy anthem sing-alongs are included for good measure, especially effective (and amusing) is the slightly creepy laughing chorus of 'Misery Company' and the Adam Ant-type vocal stretches in 'One More Last Song'. The superb 'Bows & Arrows' also has the bonus of a rousing chant, "...we the people/created equal..." Again, all smartly designed to lift us up.
* EEE&W is, on balance, even better than its immediate predecessor 'The Future is Medieval' and proves that maturity hasn't stunted either musical progression or creativity. Whatever the case, the Kaiser Chiefs always like to slip in a little politics and social commentary, but this time it's considerably more to the fore. Fortunately, the extended solos, pained expressions and strange posturing so beloved of the dreaded 'concept' album still seems some way off.
* There's a small but rather sad typo in the printed lyrics to 'The Factory Gates' which could only have been set by a younger member of the art department. Michael Palin may be no spring chicken but, please, it's Alan Whicker (not Wicker, fGs) and HE had his passport stamped first, tch.
* Every member of the Kaisers puts in a great performance and Ricky Wilson's voice is in particularly good shape. He remains an integral part of the band's overall personality and sound - that plus an amiable and well-adjusted transition to tv...I predict if not a riot, then at least an enhanced set of future career opportunities for the frontman (he won my vote just for saying 'records' when he really meant 'cds' on The Voice). Now that's cool.
* There are times when the production gets very dense and the sound is a little murky as a result, as though every instrument in the studio cupboard - with the possible exception of the kazoo - just HAD to be used, sans restraint.
* There's a new drummer in town hammering on the skins but, yeah, he seems to have slotted in nicely. Let's hope he's from Yorkshire, or at least nearby.
* The songs that stand out most and resonate unconditionally with my musical tastebuds are: 'The Factory Gates', 'One More Last Song', 'Bows & Arrows' and 'Misery Company'. Total winners. And 'Ruffians on Parade' and 'Cannons' are themselves only a stone's throw from the top spot.
* This album will probably not feature on TB's wish list. His loss.
* Finally, and most importantly: five albums in and Leeds' finest are still at the top of their game. A few minor quibbles and concerns maybe (e.g. don't ever do a Coldplay and lose your unique personality), but a five-star product all the same. It will be played often and loud.

That's it, time's up, pens down, please try to file out in an orderly manner. Yes, not bad this education thing.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

POSTSCRIPT:
I saw the Kaiser's at their Doncaster Racecourse concert only a few days ago (28.06.14) and they were fantastic live. With the kind of back catalogue they possess you can imagine the set list delivered in spades. All the band gave it everything and Ricky Wilson showed yet again just why he is such a force of nature, bouncing all over the stage, belting out some great vocals and not disappointing with his trademark witty banter between numbers, as the following exchange demonstrates...

RW: "Put your hands up if you've seen us play live before"
(Quite a few of the audience do just that, cheers)
RW: "Okay, put your hands up if this is your first Kaiser Chiefs gig"
(Quite a few others of the audience, including me and my wife, duly oblige, further cheers)
RW: "Okay...now put your hands up if you've seen us more than ten times"
(A small but very vocal number of the audience proudly let themselves be known)
RW: (slight pause, wicked grin) "You sad b-ds!"

Ouch. Perfect comic timing.

An unqualified success amid some noisy (albeit enthusiastic) race punters and the ever-present drizzle. What a night.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2014 3:19 PM BST


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