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klaher (Dublin)

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The Hawk Is Howling
The Hawk Is Howling
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Another strong album from Mogwai, 7 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Hawk Is Howling (Audio CD)
This 2008 album from Mogwai sees them sticking faithfully to their formula rather than breaking new ground. But what a formula. The brooding opener I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead is another classic Mogwai opener, in the vein of Auto Rock, Hunted by a Freak etc. Though in common with a lot of this album it's longer and more drawn out than most of Mr. Beast at nearly 7 minutes. Track 2 is the requisite heavy track, Batcat, which is bludgeoning heavy metal, with insistent sledgehammer guitar riffs.

The album continues to follow the same pattern as Mr Beast with Danphe and the Brain, one of many lumbering giants on this album, and it, like the others lumber along pleasantly for the most part, with occasional distortion. This one in particular reminds me of the Cure circa Faith / Carnage Visors, though without Robert Smith obviously as the entire album is instrumental.

There is one track on this album which has no precursors, The Sun Smells Too Loud, which is a bright, poppy tune with a strident beat. Not really sure about it to be honest, hope it's just an experiment rather than a new direction.

In general though this is another strong album from Mogwai, though not a great one in comparison with previous work.

Mark Hollis
Mark Hollis
Price: £4.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bare, stark and wonderful, 6 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Mark Hollis (Audio CD)
This was the only solo album released by Mark Hollis, once of Talk Talk. Released in 1998, it takes the musical direction forged by Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock to a more minimalist and sparse setting.

The album doesn't represent a major departure from these, as the 8 songs contained within are all framed by Hollis' fragile, quivering voice. After 20 seconds of silence, opening track The Colour of Spring starts off sounding reasonably conventional before retreating in on itself with a beautifully quiet Satie-esque piano part. It's like REM's Everybody Hurts turned inside out and stripped down to bare bones. Watershed is more fleshed out, with more instruments but never so much that the instruments overwhelm the music with each individual instrument line given a chance to breathe in this setting. The merest flaws, strings squeaking and background noise can be picked out in these songs.

Inside Looking Out is rather sombre, almost forbidding. You nearly hold your breath listening to songs like these, as if even breathing could disturb the mood. Hollis sings in a gossamer-like voice words which are not lyrics in the conventional sense but more impressionistic ("left no life no more"). The song is dominated by the sparsest of piano progressions, with a little guitar and keyboards here and there, and production so bare you can here occasional creaks here and there. It's breathtaking.

The Gift is busier, along the lines of Watershed, and tinged with regret with some wonderful acoustic guitar peeking in and out of the track before ending with woodwind. A Life (1895-1915) opens with clarinet and is light years away from conventional rock music, with parts of it very silent indeed, until after 3 minutes a piano part enters to carry the song for 2 minutes, along with some spectral backing vocals.

Westward Bound has a ratcheting guitar figure along the lines of Runeii from Talk Talk's Laughing Stock, while The Daily Planet reaches back further (after a cor anglaise opening) to Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden album. Guitar, some lovely piano and harmonica blend together to create a muted epic.

Final track, A New Jerusalem is the sound of music being put away. Funereal in tempo, it's blissfully bleak. The album finishes as it starts, with silence. It takes an age to get into this album, but it does reward. This really is a modern form of that age old genre, the blues. However it's hard to see where Hollis can go from here, and I understand he has retired from the music business.

Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £5.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bonkers and brilliant, 5 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Third (Audio CD)
This was the long-awaited third album from Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley, who as Portishead created one of the key albums of the mid-90s in Dummy. Unfortunately its `trip-hop' sound became the soundtrack to `cool' dinner parties, `helped' (is that enough inverted commas?) in no small way by the BBC TV series This Life.

I saw Beth Gibbons touring in 2003, and I must admit she was a little precious, shutting the bar during the performance, which had the effect of trying the audience's patience, only thinking of when would the gig end and where would they go afterwards?!

How relevant would Portishead prove to be, 14 years on from Dummy in 2008? Opening track Silence starts with some disembodied voice speaking in Spanish (I think) before a cacophony of sound is unleashed, dispelling any preconceptions that this was to be anything like Dummy. It's a skittering, claustrophobic, dark block of sound which sets the tone for the album. Two minutes later Gibbons' tortured voice enters the mix, battling against eerie keyboards, stabs of distorted guitar and insistent percussion. It's a breathtaking track and anything but `chill-out', with a forlorn guitar joining the maelstrom before it ends abruptly.

Hunter is a sort-of torch song, reminiscent of Beth Gibbons' Out of Season album, and on more conventional ground for older fans of Portishead, though it's interrupted by sound effects searing through intermittently which conjure up a plane taking off. All the while Gibbons sounds as anguished as ever, and strangely enough it works beautifully.

Nylon Smile is not quite as strong as the opening 2 tracks, consisting mainly of pulsing electronica, but The Rip is a highly engaging lament built around a guitar figure which evolves into a keyboard progression. Gibbons sings "White horses, they will take me away," and it sounds kind of menacing till the keyboards take over the track, concluding it pleasingly.

Plastic features what sounds like a machine rotating and stop-start rhythms, but then We Carry On takes the pace up several notches, insistent electronica with a pounding beat punctuated by some almost Sonic Youth-ish guitar riffs and effects. It's an alarming track, almost military with its relentless march, and light years away from Dummy. I can only imagine what it's like live.

Deep Water which follows is totally jarring. For one thing it's only a minute and a half long and sounds a whole lot quieter than anything else on the album. It features Beth Gibbons voice and what might be a ukulele, and she's joined by a kind of doo-wop chorus, making it sound like a relic from the early part of the last century.

Blowing this out of the water is the completely bonkers Machine Gun, which has drums and keyboards combining to produce a machine-gun-like rhythm with Gibbons' voice bolted on and air raid siren-like keyboards. It's probably the hardest track to get into and I'm not sure it entirely works, though it's interesting nonetheless.

Small sounds like a quieter, downbeat track until keyboards crash in after two and a half minutes as the song grimly lurches along. Magic Doors ominously follows, before the closing Threads, which is maybe a little reminiscent of the better tracks from Dummy where Beth Gibbons sings her little heart out about how she's "always so unsure". The whole thing ends with more air-raid siren style keyboards.

I couldn't listen to this album at first. I put it away and revisited again later. So glad I did. Forget `trip-hop', this album is wonderfully inventive, and if anything the band are closer to Radiohead circa Kid A. It's a thing of wonder.

A River Ain't Too Much To Love
A River Ain't Too Much To Love

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Smog albums, 22 Sept. 2010
At this point in 2005 Bill Callahan had fully excised the `rock' from Smog's music. This album is not a radical departure from previous ones, however, Bill's voice has completely lost any residual weediness, and the music is kind of rootsy, and not `lo-fi' at all. Possibly around now he had realised that he was actually quite good, and here he sings with more confidence than ever before.

Palimpest sounds quite bleak, in a good way, with a gingerly plucked guitar and Callahan's blacker-than-black vocals combining for a fine little tune, although at less than 3 minutes it's a little short, leaving this listener wanting more. The album settles into its groove with Say Valley Maker, which like many of the tracks here ambles along in an unhurried fashion, with deftly plucked guitars and brushed drums.

The Well is faster, with a fairly simple repeating guitar figure and some almost jaunty fiddle. There's a real spring in the step of this one, with a change of pace here and there for good measure. Rock Bottom Riser is the emotional heart of the album. It sounds like an instant classic, with a simple descending guitar pattern and a great vocal from Bill. There's some lovely piano by Joanna Newsom round the edges of this one.

I Feel Like The Mother of the World comes next featuring what sounds to me like banjo in a fairly unstructured song, that works nonetheless. In The Pines is a cover of an old folk song, and it's an interesting version in that rather than a straight cover version he sings kind of around and off the beat, supported by some eerie whistling and fiddle.

Drinking at the Dam is a kind of calm, relaxed song with plenty of room to breathe in it. I first heard this when I was driving away from Dublin, listening to the radio on a Sunday morning. I remember how calm it was and how it perfectly reflected a quiet Sunday on the roads, and also how much I hoped the signal of the radio would last till the end of the song (was well outside Dublin). Musically it is quite an airy track, with a little guitar here, a little piano there, and some lovely wordless `aah' backing vocals which really make the song. There's a great line about "for the first part of my life I thought women had orange skin".

The playing is really very fine on this album, which Bill Callahan produced himself and did a fine job, with each instrument given room to do its own unhurried thing. Later on the album I'm New Here is another idiosyncratic track, consisting solely of plucked guitar strings and a boastful lyric: "met a woman in a bar, I told her I was hard to get to know and near impossible to forget." Her response? "She said I had an ego on me the size of Texas!"

The album alternately evokes cold clear days and hot sticky ones. Not quite sure how the music achieves this! It's one of the finer Smog albums, though it's light years away from the 90s Smog albums like Doctor Came At Dawn and Red Apple Falls.

How They Are
How They Are
Price: £9.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible mini-album, 19 Sept. 2010
This review is from: How They Are (Audio CD)
The first track, Sideline, opens with just his voice for the first 2 minutes. His singing voice is somewhat unremarkable, making the moment when the piano joins quite welcome! Actually it's a good track, which works well as does following track, the oddly titled Human Eyeballs on Toast, which is also piano-led, and a deceptively cheerful vocal from Broderick, as the subject matter sounds far from cheery! His vocal reminds me of Nick Drake, or Irish singer-songwriter Paul O'Reilly.

He has a wonderful light touch which makes his songs sound kind of slight and simple at first, but they pull you in. He puts this into play with a great, `sketchy' guitar on Guilt's Tune, which also features piano but no actual singing, he merely speaks the lyrics on this one. When I'm Gone and Pulling the Rain are piano instrumentals, very fine pieces indeed, particularly the latter, which is as stately and refined a piano piece as one could hope to hear in 2010.

Final track, Hello to Nils has no piano, just Broderick's guitar, which is a nice closing track, probably the most conventional on the album with a proper chorus ("I say goodbye too often").

The whole album has a kind of onset of winter feel to it. It's fine music. If you like his album Home, which is one of his more accessible albums, this is almost as accessible.

Price: £8.39

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing return, 18 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Interpol (Audio CD)
Black mark against them for the lazy self-titling of their album. However, perhaps this was a sign of `back to basics' style reinvention? Not so in my book.

Frankly I'm surprised it took them 3 years to come up with this. It sounds to me like Interpol have run out of steam. Paul Banks was never the most varied vocalist in the world, but here his vocal range is narrower than ever. Almost every track has him singing in the same semi-dramatic, slightly dark and slightly bored tone.

The rest of the band don't really mine new territory, but even when they do, it's mainly the addition of skittery keyboards which really don't work at all. In fairness the more uptempo tracks aren't bad (Barricades, Safe Without) but they aren't particularly exciting. Barricades is probably the best track here as Banks sings with actual passion, as opposed to ennui. The slower ones plod like Interpol have never plodded before. Even the titles plod (Always Malaise, All of the Ways).

Apparently bassist Carlos Dengler has quit the band and has been replaced by David Pajo (Slint, Aerial M etc) which bodes well for a badly needed new direction. This musical avenue has proved to be a cul de sac. Maybe I've just grown tired of this band.

I Could Live In Hope
I Could Live In Hope

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Minimalist classic, 11 Sept. 2010
This review is from: I Could Live In Hope (Audio CD)
Low's debut album was released in 1994, at a time when heavy guitar grunge ruled the land. Low took an entirely different tack, playing very slow and quiet songs, setting the template for their subsequent albums.

Even now, this album sounds fresh. The whole package is very minimalist, both with the music and the song titles. Each song has a one-word title: Words, Fear, Cut etc. Opening track Words starts with a sparse bassline and low-tuned echoing electric guitar, underpinned by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's otherworldly harmonies. It sounds bold and arresting, and it becomes a groove that the band settles into.

The harmonies in particular are very good, especially on tracks like Fear and Sea. They sound a bit like Simon and Garfunkel with the Cure on backing vocals. Actually that only tells part of the story. If that was it they would merely be derivative but in fact they sound like noone else sounded before. Every note is distinct, even down to Sprahawk's fingers sliding over the fretboard. Yet the songs sound cohesive, almost like hymns with vocals are shared fairly evenly between Sparhawk and Parker. On Lullaby (Cure influence again?) the band stretch out, the track building from a sparse almost lifeless beginning to a full band performance in the middle, before ebbing away again as the song fades.

However, isolating individual tracks is futile here. The album works best as a complete unit, as each track flows into the next, making for a redemptive and soothing listen for those long, dark nights.

Note: no copies of Disintegration or Carnage Visors were harmed in the making of this album!

Offered by Media Vortex
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential grunge album, 9 Sept. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Superunknown (Audio CD)
Back in 1994, Soundgarden with Cornell on lead vocals released their masterpiece. He was one of the great grunge voices of the era. His voice soared over the bludgeoning, guttural riffs of Kim Thayil, especially on this album.

Previous albums had impressed, but Superunknown was a bold statement. 70 minutes and 15 diverse tracks was quite a lot to take in. Were they aiming for a White Album of grunge, maybe? The bottom line with this album is it is full of great, heavy songs, many of which were quite anthemic, and a lot of it is more metal than grunge.

Fell On Black Days, starts with a great, driving low riff and a superb vocal from Cornell. Mailman, is heavier, almost draggier (in a good way), as Cornell sings about "heading for the bottom". The title track follows which races along at breakneck speed, sounding enormous. Thayil plays not one but 2 guitar riffs and Cornell belts out the lyrics as if his life depended on it.

There is room for moodier introspective (with a degree of heaviness) on tracks like Head Down, The Day I Tried To Live, both of which feature unusual, exciting chord progressions. Along similar lines Black Hole Sun made a huge impression on MTV, being both a moody anthem, and being radio-friendly.

At the opposite end of the spectrum Spoonman is a heavy anthem featuring jackhammer drums, rampaging riffs and a spoon solo (!) in the middle (failed to start a musical trend), while Kickstand is a short, sharp, punky shock to the system.

On Half they try their hand at Eastern stylings while 4th of July drags a little on sludgier than sludgy riffs, but in the main the ten tonne, 20 metres below sea-level guitar riffs and vocal pyrotechnics win the day here. It's one of the essential albums of the grunge era.

Comes A Time
Comes A Time
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Countrified, accessible, and essential, 8 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Comes A Time (Audio CD)
At this point in the mid to late seventies Neil Young was on fire creatively, releasing a string of excellent albums (not to mention the bootlegs). However, most of these were relatively uncommercial, and `rockier' than albums like After the Gold Rush and Harvest. I went through a phase of dismissing these more accessible albums, thinking `rockier' = better. This was short-sighted of me. Neil Young can groove mightily with Crazy Horse alright, but he can also write straightforward yet deeply affecting heartfelt songs. His best albums are probably the ones where he mixes the two styles.

He returned to the countrified, acoustic sound used on Harvest for this 1978 album, and from the opening bars of the aptly titled Goin' Back, it fits him like a glove. The moment you hear the plaintively strummed guitars it feels comfortable, like an old sweater, enhanced by the beautiful string section. We're definitely in country territory here, almost too much so as the fiddle on the title track is a little `hokey'. Behind the fiddle is another excellent melody.

Look Out for My Love and Lotta Love were done with Crazy Horse, so don't share the warm, fuzzy feeling of the opening 2 tracks. Yet these tracks have their own charm, in a slightly less polished sort of way. The presence of electric guitar on the former is quite welcome, and the almost clumsy piano and harmony on Lotta Love work well.

Peace of Mind sees the return of the strings, like the sound of sunset in August. Like the rest of the album it's a very relaxed song, all steel guitars and harmonies. Human Highway picks the pace up a little, adding banjo, and Already One is a nice, sentimental song without being mushy.

The final 3 tracks are not quite as strong as the opening 7. Field of Opportunity comes riding in on a tractor with a piece of hay in its mouth, Motorcycle Mama doesn't quite work, despite the prominent vocals of Nicolette Larsson, while Four Strong Winds is just a little dull. This album doesn't get the plaudits of Harvest, perhaps because it's lacking a true standout track in the vein of Old Man or Needle and the Damage Done. Nevertheless it's essential for fans of Neil Young's work.

The Last Romance
The Last Romance
Price: £14.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super career-ender, 4 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Last Romance (Audio CD)
Arab Strap continued their return to form with the Last Romance, which came out in 2005. However it turned out to be their last album. The band continued where they left off with Monday at the Hug and Pint by tightening their sound further, making this album their most concise of all at 10 tracks and only 36 minutes.

It's straight down to business with Stink, which bursts forward with Malcolm Middleton's downbeat guitar riff, over Aidan Moffat's growling tale of a lost weekend. "Burn these sheets that we've just..." spits Moffat, singing with more venom than ever. What sets this apart is that the details listed here are not what they got up to but Moffat's description of the girl he's with: "it's your skin and your breath and your sweat and greasy hair" over Middleton's coruscating guitar. The old romantic's at it again. The barrage of torrid imagery continues "empty cans and makeshift ashtrays everywhere, strangers waking up iin the Monday morning stink." It makes for a powerful opener, the whole thing is over in less than two and a half minutes!

The pace picks up further with (If There's) No Hope For Us which barrels along with thumping drums and driving guitars, probably Arab Strap's fastest song. Moffat dissects a relationship like noone else: "we never used to let just one spare moment go to waste, but now you're hardly here and when you are you're bored and chaste." Later in the track female vocals from Nicola MacLeod provide a counterpoint: "that's me then, I'm all packed, you know I need some time to think" but Moffat answers "you take what you think you'll need I think we both might need a drink."

Don't Ask Me To Dance is similarly economic, yet it still skips along quickly, over deftly picked guitar and a cutting chorus: "and maybe I'm not very vocal `cos I've used the words before, and the more they were repeated the more they were ignored." A whole album of this can be a little heavy, and the more stripped down tracks like Confessions of a Big Brother and Come Round and Love Me provide some light relief (though the former contains the crushing revelation that "sometimes there's nothing sexier than knowing that you're doomed").

It doesn't all work, the cry in your beer Chat in Amsterdam, Winter 2003 should have stayed in the pub and Speed-Date is a little too similar to No Hope For Us. The music continues to excite later on the album, Dream Sequence features some fine piano playing from Barry Burns of Mogwai, and Middleton plays a lovely fragile guitar part on Fine Tuning.

This grubby (in a good way) thing ends with There Is No Ending, an upbeat, trumpet led track form which there is no coming back for these guys, but a fine album to finish up their career as Arab Strap with. A perfect combination of acerbic lyrics and wonderfully brooding music.

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