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Reviews Written by
Kevin Clarke "kevin17566" (Birmingham UK)

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Va Va Voom
Va Va Voom
Price: £6.71

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gedge in 'real singing' revelation!, 29 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Va Va Voom (Audio CD)
By 1997 The Wedding Present had run out of steam. The 'Singles 1995 - 1997' compilation shows a band short on tunes and devoid of inspiration. David Gedge's eloquent lyrics seemed hidebound by the restrictive three-chord-thrash template imposed on them. A major rethink was needed.

Recruiting then girlfriend Sally Murrell on vocals and keyboards, along with a host of other musicians, Gedge set about re-inventing his music. What emerged was this - lush, symphonic pop, gorgeously arranged and performed. Heck, Gedge even seems to have had some singing lessons to try and improve his grizzly drone.

Sonically, 'Va Va Voom' is the most mellow, acoustic album of Gedge's career. But it still packs a punch. His trademark bitter, spiteful lyrics about love, revenge and heartbreak are still in place, given an added frisson by the contrast with the smoothness of the music. "I hate your lies, and those guys you call friends" he sings, to a gently lapping musical accompaniment.

The album opens with an hilarious answer phone message by someone who's just dumped our hapless Dave - "I did get your message/I just can't believe you're doing this/What is wrong with you?". Somehow, the American accent makes it even funnier.

'Kerry Kerry' is a jaunty pop song with soaring strings, 'Dance Girl Dance' a deliciously sweet romp.

And Gedge, the perennial loser in love, even seems to have found contentment with Murrell, judging by 'Barefoot In The Park' and 'You Turn Me On'. It wasn't to last.

Gobbledygook: How Cliches, Sludge and Management-Speak are Strangling Our Public Language
Gobbledygook: How Cliches, Sludge and Management-Speak are Strangling Our Public Language
by Don Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meets its strategic objectives, 9 Feb. 2008
'Gobbledygook' is a timely tirade against the pervasive and pernicious influence of 'management speak' in all areas of public life. Through carefully selected examples, the author shows how this hollow, sterile 'language' has infected education, politics and the workplace. It will please anyone whose heart sinks on hearing a phrase like "We are committed to the roll-out of value-added programmes going forward."

This kind of analysis isn't new but Watson, himself an escapee from the jargon-infested world of academia, writes with passion and humour, devoid of the smug, self-righteousness that occasionally creeps into other authors' thoughts on the subject.

He exposes the essential vacuousness of much of this language, its total absence of character. There's no place for strangeness, beauty or poetry in it, just a stultifying deadness. So the next time your boss asks you to 'action' something, say "I certainly won't be ACTIONING it but I don't mind DOING it."

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Oscar Wilde
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gray areas, 27 Jan. 2008
Oscar Wilde's only novel, a curious mixture of the Gothic, the romantic and the comedic, was reviled by many critics of the day for being a filthy, corrupting work and was used as evidence against Wilde at his trial.

It's the tale of a young man who retains his youth and beauty while his portrait, hidden in an attic, grows hideous and ugly as a reflection of his sins. Within this framework Wilde played with some of his favourite themes - morality, narcissism, the nature of Art.

Although the tale of a young man selling his soul in return for eternal youth was not a new one, Wilde introduced a new element - the witty, detached observer, Lord Henry Wootton. Firmly based on Wilde himself, Lord Henry utters some of Wilde's best lines - "There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about", "Young men want to be faithful and are not not; old men want to be faithless and cannot" and so on.

The book also had darker similarities with Wilde's own life. The double life of Dorian echoed the double life of Oscar - by day elegant socialite playwright, by night the seedy procurer of "charming dear boys".

'Dorian Gray' was one of the earliest English novels to deal with homosexuality. Basil Hallward, the painter of the fated portrait, 'worships' Dorian in a way that affords only one interpretation. The first meeting between the two is described in a way that was very daring for the time.

Written in a lush, opulent style that is occasionally turgid with overwrought descriptions, 'Dorian Gray's dashing, amoral tone provided the Age of Aestheticism with its hedonistic figurehead. It is both a celebration and a renunciation of pure pleasure-seeking; Dorain Gray is a man in decay.

Read it with tongue in cheek for the lurid melodramatics and an ear cocked for Lord Henry's maxim - "The books that the world calls immoral are the books which show the world its own shame."

Victory for the Comic Muse
Victory for the Comic Muse
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Divine, 17 Jan. 2008
I love The Divine Comedy. I love the fact that they're posh, clever, effete - all the things you're not supposed to be in the grubby world of rock 'n' roll. Unafraid to use a phrase like "bourgeois malaise", Neil Hannon may occasionally come across like Little Lord Fauntleroy but reahlly daahling, who would you rather be stuck in a lift with, him or The Hoosiers?

'Victory For The Comic Muse' is another superb collection of arch, literate pop but this time with an added ingredient - heart. 'A Lady Of A Certain Age' is typical of this new-found empathy. In a series of beautiful, rhyming couplets, Hannon paints a devastating portrait of a privileged life crushed by failure and disappointment: poignant, anguished and dripping with pathos, it's Hannon's masterpiece.

The album opens with a cheeky steal from 'The Camomile Lawn', with two bright young things discussing losing their virginity, before Hannon unfolds his funny tale of a frustrated adolescent trying to pop his cherry - "You don't know how much I need you/ The Handy Andy's I've been through....."

'Diva Lady' is a spot-on pop at certain stars, their preposterous demands and vacuous posing. On 'The Light Of Day' Hannon's swaps his trademark irony for something simple, direct and affecting - and it works a treat.
'Arthur C.Clarke's Mysterious World' and 'Mother Dear' are smart, spritely pop songs, zinging with hooks and humour.

18 years in and Mr.Hannon's 'comic muse' shows no sign of deserting him.

Witching Hour
Witching Hour
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.52

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bewitched by Ladytron, 28 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Witching Hour (Audio CD)
They wear all black, sing lyrics like "Daylight is the enemy" and have called their album "Witching Hour." But wait! Before you start running for the hills screaming "Get thee behind me Goths!" sit down and listen to Ladytron's alluring electro-pop feast.

It seems the band have been sneaking a listen to MBV, JAMC, The Radio Dept and 'Exterminator'-era Primal Scream on this, their third album. In fact, opening track 'High Rise' would fit snugly onto the Scream's dystopian, millennial masterpiece, as would 'Fighting In Built Up Areas'.

Lead-off single 'Sugar' has saucy minx Helen Marnie cooing seductively "If I give you sugar, will you give me/Something elusive and temporary?" It's a great jailbait lyric.

'International Dateline' is a bouncy pop song propelled along by a fantastic electro-Motown beat. 'Destroy Everything You Touch' is superb too, reminiscent of Depeche Mode's beefier moments. 'Weekend' is cut from the same cloth and typifies the atmosphere of luxuriant ennui that envelopes the whole album. Of the slower tracks, 'The Last One Standing' is superb and 'Beauty*2' is haunting and resigned.

Named (I presume) after the Roxy Music song, Ladytron have the style, dash and sex appeal of their glamorous forebears. Only one puzzle remains - why aren't they huge?

McIntyre, Treadmore & Davitt
McIntyre, Treadmore & Davitt
Price: £14.43

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Who's afraid of Virginia Wade?", 23 Sept. 2007
The front cover of the Biccies 'comeback' album from 1991 features a still from a football-themed episode of Michael Palin's "Ripping Yarns" series from the '70s. It's a characteristic touch from a band who famously turned down a slot on 'The Tube' as it clashed with a Friday night home fixture for Tranmere Rovers.

Where this album has the edge over later efforts is in, well, the tunes - most of them are pretty damn hummable and that's not something you always get on other albums by Birkenhead's scathing, post-punk satirists. And any band that rhymes 'lackey' with 'Kendo Nagasaki' is obviously worthy of our most serious attention.

The Biccies have always been suspicious of prescribed 'cool' texts, disdainful of student trendies - "Don't know much about The Highway Code/ And I've never read 'On The Road'/ I don't read I just memorise names/So I can stagger through bohemian games."

Who else would excavate half-forgotten sporting, musical and cultural figures like Alan Brazil, Vitas Gerulaitis, Kip Keino, Hedley Verity, and Peter Grommitt in their songs?

There's probably a poncey doctoral thesis to be written unpicking all the Biccies rich and varied references. Thinking about it, that wouldn't be a bad way to spend the next 3 years of my life.......

Furnace Room Lullaby
Furnace Room Lullaby
Offered by robert_reynolds6
Price: £9.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An open and shut Case, 23 July 2007
This review is from: Furnace Room Lullaby (Audio CD)
Neko Case's latest album, 'Fox Confessor Brings The Flood', features lyrics so cryptic and aloof they make Beck sound like Girls Aloud. Thankfully, this earlier effort adopts a more straightforward approach and is all the more accessible and engaging because of it.

As anyone who's seen her 'live' will testify, Ms Case possesses a mighty pair of lungs: no studio trickery is needed to enhance her recorded vocals either.

The 12 concise songs on this album are country-influenced but not out-and-out-country. 'Twist The Knife' is the best known, due to it topping John Peel's Festive Fifty of 2000. Neko really uses her marvellous, swooping voice to maximum effect on this wrenching love song.

'Porchlight' is another highlight, chiefly due to the wonderful, twangy guitar of Brian Connelly - you can see why Peel was such a fan. The feisty words and frantic rhythm of 'Mood To Burn Bridges' speak of a woman you wouldn't want to cross. And 'Furnace Room Lullaby' is a spooky murder ballad Nick Cave would be proud of. The way that Neko elongates the word 'here' near the end is spine-tingling.

But Case can do tender too. Witness the warm, romantic 'No Need To Cry' which has soft, jazzy brushes on the drums or the wistful regret of 'We've Never Met'. 'Bought And Sold' is also superb, hinting at a hitherto unrevealed vulnerability.

Her later records have been too obtuse for my liking. 'Furnace Room Lullaby' though scorches with fierce intensity.

Here Are The Roses
Here Are The Roses

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiery stuff, 16 July 2007
This review is from: Here Are The Roses (Audio CD)
Simple Minds may be an unfashionable influence to cite but people forget that their early, experimental records were ace. Dragons are clearly in thrall to early Simps' classics like 'I Travel', 'The American' and 'Thirty Frames A Second,' as well as a whole host of other gloom-rockers, past and present.

'Here Are The Roses' is too patchy, and occasionally derivative, to warrant more than 3 stars, but when it works, it's terrific. The title track is superb - gleaming and menacing, all sinuous bass and pulsing electronics. 'Condition' is a brilliantly terse rocker that manages to sound like THREE Joy Division songs all at once - 'Digital', 'Means To An End' and 'Isolation', in case you're interested.

'Obedience' recalls prime, 'Violator'-era Depeche Mode, right down to the nasally vocal and lyrics about "fastening the leather straps."

Sadly, Dragons can't maintain the quality in the second half of the album, the pace slackening and the interest waning. 'Lonely Tonight' sounds like a weak Interpol track and yearning ballads don't suit them - more dark-hearted electro mutterings please.

Still, Dragons have fashioned a bold, intriguing record that's not afraid to occasionally overreach itself. Nice cover too.

Undertones Best of
Undertones Best of

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A teenage dream's so hard to beat", 1 July 2007
This review is from: Undertones Best of (Audio CD)
Five scruffy herberts from Derry with zero dress sense and bad haircuts, The Undertones really shouldn't have been one of the best UK singles' groups EVER should they? And yet this 25 track compilation offers ample evidence why they were.

Ignoring the trendy punk concepts of anarchy and rebellion, The Undertones simply set about writing wonderfully melodic pop music - 'More Songs About Chocolate And Girls' (in the latter's case, usually unobtainable ones).

Feargal Sharkey had a marvellously distinctive voice, one of the things that so endeared the band to John Peel who allegedly blubbed like a baby on first hearing 'Teenage Kicks.' That song is still their finest moment, 3 minutes of lusty yearning as brilliantly simple as 'Tutti Frutti' or 'Satisfaction' from previous eras.

Now I know it's 2007 and most of the great tunes have been written, but when was the last time you heard a guitar riff as momentous as that on 'You Got My Number?' Or such a life-affirming burst of joy as 'Here Comes The Summer?' Or a pop ballad as affecting as the psychedelia-tinged 'Julie Ocean?'

The lyrics are damn funny too, Feargal positively revelling in shouting out "I wannna wanna be a MALE MODEL!" or slagging off his horrible cousin Kevin for cheating at Subbeteo.

Even when their initial burst of punk energy had subsided they could still craft songs as fine as 'Wednesday Week' and 'It's Going To Happen.' Plus they inspired the title of the nation's funniest footy magazine, 'When Saturday Comes.' Really, what's not to love?

Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy
Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy
Price: £10.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New England, 15 Jun. 2007
It's hard to convey to people just how AUDACIOUS this record was when it was first released. Spandau Duran were spending tens of thousands of pounds on videos and then suddenly this big-nosed bloke with an unashamed Essex accent appears armed with JUST A GUITAR and nothing else.

Seething with anger and sexual frustration, Billy's songs spoke to the young and alienated for whom the Thatcher revolution meant nothing.

The opening song, 'The Milkman Of Human Kindness', is a 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' for the post-punk generation - "If you are lonely, I will call/ If you are poorly, I will send poetry."

'To Have And To Have Not' is a defiant and dignified anthem for the millions of unemployed at the time. Lyrically, it's unsophisticated but sheer conviction carries it through.

'Richard' is a razor-sharp riff on the arbitrary cruelty of young love -"Neil belongs to love/And love belongs to no man/How can he go on/When no one answers the adverts in his mind?"

The title of 'A New England' leads us to expect an impassioned 'state of the nation' polemic: Billy wrongfoots us though by making it a tender, very personal love song - he's NOT looking for a new England, just looking for another girl.

'The Man In The Iron Mask' is desolate and haunting, an unflinching portrait of betrayal - "The nights you spend without me, this house is like a dungeon/ And you only return to torture me more."

'The Busy Girl Buys Beauty' is a satirical song about the pressures placed on young girls by the fashion industry to conform and look beautiful, a debate still going on today.

The only disappointment is 'Lovers Town Revisited' which is way too short, almost an afterthought. Let it not colour your view of the album as a whole though. "Life's A Riot..." was a valuable and much-needed antidote to the prevailing musical and cultural values of the time.

And you never saw Billy sporting a mullet and a jacket with the sleeves rolled-up either.........

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