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klaher (Dublin)

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Price: £3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rocks very hard, 26 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Core (Audio CD)
The Stone Temple Pilots' debut album came out in 1992, in the height of early 90s grunge. The band were annihilated by the critics for aping the Seattle grunge bands (they were from San Diego), and this wasn't helped by singer Scott Weiland's vocals, which are very reminiscent of Eddie Vedder on this album.

It's probably their heaviest album. Tracks like Dead and Bloated, Sex Type Thing and Crackerman pack a considerable wallop, driven by the guitar and bass of the DeLeo brothers, fine drumming from Eric Kretz and Weiland's bellowing vocals. Sex Type Thing in particular barrels along with a sledgehammer riff and great bass work.

They were able to slow things down on this album, with Creep and early anthem Plush, one of their most famous songs. Though the lyrics give little indication as to what the song is about (lots of strange lines like "when the dogs begin to smell her") but the whole song is built on an immense guitar riff, as the song manages a clever trick of being heavy and laid-back at the same time.

Although the album is pretty one-dimensional, it rocks like hell on its finer moments.

Bona Drag
Bona Drag
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £3.95

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of Morrissey songs, 25 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Bona Drag (Audio CD)
Morrissey's late 80s singles were complied on Bona Drag. It's a little hit and miss, opening with weak, jaunty single Piccadilly Palare. Much better is Interesting Drug, which features glorious guitar from Craig Gannon and a soaring melody. In other words vintage Morrissey.

Just as good, though markedly different is November Spawned a Monster. It's darker, featuring a forlorn vocal from Morrissey, but most notable an almost strangled wordless vocal from Mary Margaret O'Hara in the bridge. There are some great lyrics here: "and if the lights were out would you even dare to kiss her full on the mouth or anywhere."

Morrissey since his days in the Smiths had always released strong B-sides, and thankfully many of them are captured here. Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference has a quirky melody with some unpredictable twists and turns, while Hairdresser On Fire has a soaring melody ably aided by Stephen Street's piano showcasing Morrissey's preoccupation with London.

The collection does contain some of his weaker singles, Ouija Board, Ouija Board being a case in point. The single arrived at precisely the point when my previously ardent devotion to buying up all things Smiths and Morrissey related began to waver. It's a pretty uninspiring tune, almost inoffensive. Much better is final track Disappointed, featuring a strutting guitar line and wonderfully self-deprecating lyrics from Morrissey: "this is the last song I will ever sing", followed by cheers from the crowd... then he sings "no I've changed my mind again", followed by a disappointed "awww"! It's cheesy but it works.

This album is not far off being essential for Morrissey fans. It's let down by one or two Morrissey-by-numbers tracks (Last of the Famous International Playboys, Yes I Am Blind) but these are more than made for by the high points mentioned above.

And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees
And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, yet serene, 18 Jun. 2010
This album is a soundtrack to a Marc Craste animated film which came out last year, but has just become available more widely.

Most of the pieces start with piano, but are joined by strings, and in the main is quite uplifting. There are some ambient sounds added in here and there (birds, thunder) but quite low in the mix, which is a nice touch. Other tracks feature skyscrapingly high otherworldly choirs. As far as reference points go, it's vaguely reminiscent of Arvo Part, though the strings are far more dramatic. Some of the pieces are a little under-realised, and finish just when they are getting going, but at the same time the short duration time makes them more digestible.

It's quite chilled out in places (The Flat, Pods, Dying City), these pieces sounding almost Eno-like. Like a lot of soundtracks, similar musical themes crop up over the course of the soundtrack which makes it a cohesive listen.

A brooding, church-like organ permeates Siren Song, giving it a pleasingly foreboding atmosphere.

The album is definitely worth your time, at only 36 minutes it's quite digestible and is both uplifting and serene. Check it out if you like Peter Broderick's classical diversion, or even Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' soundtrack to The Road (especially on Escape).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2010 7:15 PM BST

Dongs Of Sevotion
Dongs Of Sevotion

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patchy album that gets under your skin, 17 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Dongs Of Sevotion (Audio CD)
Smog's first album post-Jim O'Rourke came out in 2000, and is (even for them) a strangely disjointed listen. Bill Callahan has forsaken the simplicity of earlier albums like Red Apple Falls with a more `all over the place' feel.

The album opens with the cheap synths of Justice Aversion, before starting in earnest with Dress Sexy At My Funeral. This track borrows a little in feel from Knock Knock's Cold Blooded Old Times but turns into a classic Velvet Underground style grind drawl grind, Callahan delivering a great Lou Reed drawl. It's a great idea for a song, and lyrically is very direct, leaving little to the imagination, the central message being that his wife should behave flirtatiously as a tribute to him (!). A classic.

Strayed sees the reurn of the cheap synths, and is pretty much a simple groove for the whole song, a little like the previous track slowed-down. The Hard Road features distorted guitar, a bit like this album's No Dancing (Knock Knock). Easily Led is a distinct improvement, a pretty piano-led tune with the merest hint of percussion. It's kind of a cross between the vulnerability of To Be of Use (Red Apple Falls) and the poignancy of River Guard (Knock Knock), though at barely 3 minutes it's a little short, leaving you longing for more.

Bloodflow on the other hand outstays its welcome somewhat. It's a complete change of mood, like many of the other tracks it's mainly a simple groove for the seven minutes that it lasts, with backing choruses and thrilling changes in tempo thrown into the mix. Nineteen is a ghoulish, drowsy yet haunted sparse ballad complete with spooky wailing while Distance creeps along similarly until halfway through when the song explodes into life with synths, electric guitar, backing vocals and drums. Again there's a particular Lou Reed sound to this track, though in common with many other songs it's a little overlong at nearly eight minutes

A couple of long, sparse, downbeat tunes follow (Devotion, Cold Discovery) before the funereal yet triumphant trudge of Permanent Smile. Despite numerous misgivings on my part, the album does get under your skin, though it's not the strongest Smog album.

Knock Knock
Knock Knock

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but his most representative, 7 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Knock Knock (Audio CD)
Bill Callahan again worked with Jim O'Rourke on this 1999 album. It's more expansive and diverse than previous album Red Apple Falls, indeed poppier, though it features a downright odd picture of a cat on the front!

The album opens with a sparse simple track, Let's Move To The Country, consisting of Bill Callahan singing over a cello and a barely strummed guitar, but he follows this up with guitar anthem Held, which contains a great riff and beat. River Guard is a somewhat lengthy track, starting with the merest of guitar strums, before a wonderful piano part enters the mix. It's a beautiful melody which builds up with percussion and more piano, before a grear electric guitar before the end and gripping images in the lyrics ("stand there on a cliff with gooseflesh").

He completely changes the mood with the first of his experiments featuring a children's choir, the throwaway No Dancing, to which he sees fit to add heavy guitar and horns. He called this his album for teenagers, though I can't imagine this being a teen anthem, however singalong it is! Teenage Spaceship is another brooding track with more gorgeous piano, while Cold Blooded Old Times is another uptempo, poppy tune featuring "the type of memories that turn your bones to glass" over strummed guitar.

After the moody Sweet Treat, Hit The Ground Running is another track featuring the children's choir over a Velvet Underground-ish groove while Bill Callahan drawls agreeably through the song. The final 2 tracks return to the default Smog setting of sparseness. The album is a bit all over the place so it's not a good one in terms of setting a mood, but it is probably his most trademark album in terms of the `Smog sound'.

Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots
Price: £5.62

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of expectations, 24 May 2010
This review is from: Stone Temple Pilots (Audio CD)
First track Between the Lines shows an admirable energy, bursting out of the speakers with considerable oomph. The riff between chorus and verse has a kind of Nirvana feel to it. Take A Load Off is one of those midpaced rockers with a choppy Dean DeLeo riff, which the band excelled at back in their prime. This one is a little reminiscent of Interstate Love Song, though it's let down somewhat by singer Scott Weiland's bland vocals.

Weiland's vocals are a little smoothed out over the course of the whole album, but worse are his lyrics which are really quite lazy (one example "yeah it's alright as we mosey on into the night", "awright awright awright come awn"). The sound of the album is a little smooth, I would have liked a little fuzz, a little distortion on the guitars but this has all been smoothed away, leaving the album sounding a little generic. Indeed some songs are alarmingly throwaway, Cinnamon and Bagman being the worst offenders, the former being a little cringey with a cheesy riff and vocal, and the latter apeing the Batman theme tune.

Weiland's vocal on Huckleberry Crumble has traces of Alice in Chains to it, and the song is an agreeable stomper, while Hickory Dichotomy sounds kind of like David Bowie speak-singing a Led Zeppelin-esque groove which threatens not to work but the band just about pull it off. Dare If You Dare has a decent verse and chorus structure, let down by the lyrics but it boasts a singalong poppy tune. It's light years from 1992's Core.

Fast As I Can is a definite improvement, sounding a bit like a sped up Tumble in the Rough (off Tiny Music), with a busy riff and a rasping vocal delivery from Weiland. First Kiss On Mars is a mid-paced chugalong but is a little unremarkable, while closer Maver is a fairly atypical song for Stone Temple Pilots with piano and banjo. I can't quite place which American band it reminds me of.

If this album had been a little heavier it might have worked better. There's nothing wrong with the quality of the musicianship, and perhaps the songs will grow on me over time but at the moment this reformation falls short of expectations.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2010 9:35 AM BST

Buzz Factory
Buzz Factory
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £10.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a great hard rock album, 18 May 2010
This review is from: Buzz Factory (Audio CD)
On this album, their fourth released in 1989, Screaming Trees began to sound less like the somewhat shouty band they had been and started to become a little more melodic. Mark Lanegan had started to actually sing rather than roar, and the album shows the first signs of his undoubted vocal talents. The guitar attack of Gary Lee Conner became a little more refined here as classic rock influences became apparent. Indeed his guitar work is very disciplined and concise throughout, with very few wasted notes, almost like an extension of the rhythm section.

However, Where the Twain Shall Meet is a kind of sludgey, droney guitar anthem. The guitars are quite downtuned here and sound really good, smouldering away with the requisite slacker attitude. Black Sun Morning is a great early grunge anthem. Lanegan's vocals here are all over the shop as he bawls his throat out, but the squalling guitars keep everything together, leading into an unashamedly big chorus. Van Conner's basswork is particularly good in this one, and the whole thing finishes up with some unexpected piano work almost taking it into the realm of Roxy Music.

Too Far Away is about as classic rock as it gets. It kicks off with a repeating guitar riff which would be fairly unremarkable until Lanegan spreads his giant vocal chords over the proceedings. His vocal here is a million miles away from Black Sun Morning and he sounds great. The song closes with some fairly pleasing "ba ba bas" over more squalling guitars. The guitars get dirtier for Subtle Poison, before things calm down a bit for Yard Trip #7, a kind of Doors-y slowish song.

Before the next song, a clip of a radio appearance is played ("The question will be what kind of trees you are; the answer will be 'Screaming Trees'"), then the band kick into the jangly power-pop Flower Web, which features another great vocal from Lanegan.

Towards the end of the album the band come on a bit like a heavy version of the Doors, on tracks like Wish Bringer and especially End of the Universe, which definitely takes some influence from The End, especially Mark Pickerel's drumming in the middle section, and some of Lanegan's vocal `mannerisms'. But the band lock into a great heavy groove on this and other tracks.

This is the first real Lanegan as proper singer record. The problem with the Screaming Trees is that they were too heavy for mainstream pop/rock in the late 80s, but not heavy enough for metal thus falling between two stools. They didn't really sound like anything in the embryonic grunge scene either, and record companies therefore had no idea what to do with them.

High Violet
High Violet
Price: £8.39

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early contender for album of the year, 15 May 2010
This review is from: High Violet (Audio CD)
I had been hoping they would follow up the wonderful Boxer with a `difficult' album that would alienate people. They haven't. It's a really strong album, full of great songs, and easily as consistent as their last few albums. First track Terrible Love is a little atypical, starting off with some slightly rough spidery guitar (as he sings "it's a terrible love and I'm walking with spiders"), but it builds and builds into a sort of mini-anthem. It's a little bit of a departure for them, singer Matt Berninger sings this one in a higher register than usual, as he does on a few tracks.

With Sorrow we're back on home ground. It's a classic mid-tempo National track, with a wonderful ringing bassline. Berninger sings "I don't want to get over you" which is probably a Magnetic Fields reference. Anyone's Ghost is also a strong song of theirs, with some cello and strong drumming, and sounds like it would have fit in well on Boxer. There's a theme of getting out of the city in the lyrics in certain songs, as referenced in Little Faith, and later in Conversation 16.

He uses his higher register for one of the stronger songs, Afraid of Everyone, which is a kind of anxious, worried song which descends in on it self. Bloodbuzz Ohio is fine, though a little like The National on auto-pilot. Runaway is just lovely, with plucked guitar and another strong bassline. Plenty of goose-bump moments in the chorus, and some nice brass to boot. Conversation 16 is like Ada off their last album Boxer gone anthemic. He references Bret Easton Ellis on this one ("I was afraid I'd eat your brains")

England features a ringing piano line, which starts with an uplifting pattern, and then, just before it changes and you think "oh wouldn't be great if the music went there", the music actually does go to just that place you anticipated! It's a marvellous moment on album full of such moments. There's a wonderfully resonant chorus line ("you must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain") which is a great image of loss and longing, and more brass towards the end of the song. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks is the last song and Berninger is once again in his higher register, sounding a note of uncertainty. It's a kind of awkward song and I have to commend them for finishing with this rather than the more obvious England.

Berninger is not the Mr. November of 5 years ago any more. He's grown up, less angry but not necessarily happier, which informs his lyrics. The album itself is great, and is growing on me with each listen. When it finishes, you just want to put it on again. Definitely a strong contender for album of the year.

Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £3.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Concise, brooding album, 12 May 2010
This review is from: 29 (Audio CD)
This is a relatively short album for Ryan Adams, featuring only 9 songs, though that's not really a surprise given that it was his third release of 2005! It's a sort of concept album about the end of his twenties and after the misfire of the chug-along title track we settle into acoustic territory with the Neil Young sounding Strawberry Wine. The song features some interesting lyrical musings: "can you still have any famous last words if you're somebody nobody knows... she spent too much time on the other side and she forgot to let the daylight in" over a plain, simply strummed acoustic guitar.

Nightbirds is darker, a miserable yet soaring piano-led tune, with the downbeat observation in the chorus "we were supposed to rise above but with we sink into the ocean". The playing on this song is quite lovely, particularly when a gentle electric guitar enters the mix, though towards the end the song descends into masses of echo and reverb, presumably for dramatic effect. Blue Sky Blues is in a similar vein, as Adams laments "cos I'm gonna lose what's left of my mind" over piano, horns and a beautiful string part.

Carolina Rain provides welcome relief after the drama of the previous 2 tracks, where Adams is no longer sitting up in his bedroom looking out at the rain, but sitting in a diner. He's back in country mode here, with a relaxed melody and a great achey vocal aided by steel guitar and subtle honky tonk piano (yes there is such a thing!) and humorous lyrics ("I should have told him that you were the one for me, but I lied... too weird I met your sister and I married her in July, but if only to be closer to you Caroline").

After another piano ballad (Starlite Diner) we get the faux western sounding The Sadness which has a great over the top Spanish guitar and soaring vocals from Adams. The final two tracks, the wonderfully titled piano song Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part and the acoustic guitar led Voices return to the mood of the previous material, that is brooding and reflective, though Voices is not helped by a somewhat strangled vocal.

It's a strange little album, not overtly country like his other 2 albums that year (Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights), and a lot shorter. It's more concise and all the better for it.

Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £9.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine tales from the gutter, 10 May 2010
This review is from: Philophobia (Audio CD)
More tales from the gutter from Falkirk's finest. The title apparently refers to a fear of loving, and if anything the lyrics on their 2nd album released in 1998 were even more obviously shocking than their debut. Certainly opener Packs of Three's first line leaves nothing to the imagination, in a sordid tale of infidelity. Which doesn't exactly differentiate it from the rest of the album.

The album takes in idle afternoons with `singer' Aidan Moffat watching TV (Soaps), drunken tiffs (Here We Go) and more infidelity (New Birds). All of this would be a bit `so what' only for the wonderful music that soundtracks these tales, largely created by Malcolm Middleton's army of guitar and synths.

Here We Go features a gentle guitar part as Moffat sings "how am I supposed to walk you home when you're at least 50 feet ahead, cos you walked off in a huff". It's a visceral, bitingly real love song with the wonderfully resigned chorus detailing a vicious circle: "here we go, same time, same place, I don't like the way you kiss his face, it's not that there's no trust as such, I'd love to make up but I've had too much."

New Birds if anything is rawer. It details a chance meeting with an ex over a vaguely post-rocky backing, when our protagonist becomes tempted "she says she's been going out with him now for about two and a half years, but they don't live together so he'd never find out". He is brought to the point of infidelity at the end of the night: "you can see her breath in the air between your faces as you stand in the leaves and she just asks you straight out if you want to come and stay at her flat." The music dies away leaving merely the bass line... the suspense is awful, like a car crash, but you can't help wanting to know the outcome. Our hero remains strong and loyal: "but you make sure you get separate taxis and you go home and there might be a slight regret and you might wonder what you missed but you have to remember the kiss you worked so hard on - and you'll know you've done the right thing." The music then kicks into a fantastic gauzy rock guitar to close out the song.

The album continues in this vein, each song telling fairly dark tales. Getting through a whole album of this can be a bit of a drudge, but at its best it's pretty vital. Is it poetry or drunken babble? Not sure I know the difference.

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