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OMG! It's got a plug! "OMG! It's got a plug!" (UK)

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Don't Look Back: An Introduction to Lloyd Cole and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Don't Look Back: An Introduction to Lloyd Cole and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Price: £5.85

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Looking Back, 13 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An album of two halves, the first 10 tracks are taken from the three studio albums released by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions and the second half features 10 tracks from Cole's first four solo albums. All of the songs featuring the Commotions are near faultless and they continue to be one of the most enduring bands of the eighties.

To this day, 'Mainstream' remains one of my most listened to albums (I have a lot of memories tied up in it!) and it's a pity that 'My Bag' - where Cole almost breaks into a rap ("Spin, spin whiskey and gin...") - didn't make the cut. But this compilation is 78 minutes long and it costs about the price of a pint so I have no complaints whatsoever.

I lost touch with Cole and his music after the release of his eponymous debut solo album in 1990. At the time I was listening to other types of music and, like a lot of music from that period, the production on his debut sounded too clinical and sterile. The Commotions' sound was always more sophisticated than they were perhaps given credit for and (again keeping with the times) their production could sometimes be too clean but with his debut, Cole seemed to be embracing an even more mature sound and reaching out to an equally more mature audience. I still contest that 'No Blue Skies' sounded more Dire Straits than Lloyd Cole at the time!

Nonetheless, I'm now 25 years older and, I like to think, more mature and I must admit that I now regret missing out on most of these solo recordings the first time around. Listening to them now it's clear that there are some cleverly crafted songs here - the playful 'Undressed', 'Margo's Waltz' with it's orchestration and female backing vocals, the heavy rocking 'She's a Girl and I'm a Man', the Top 30 single 'Like Lovers Do', etc - that have stood the test of time and more or less carry on from where the Commotions left off.

An ideal budget primer for the forthcoming Commotions' box set, this is also the perfect introduction to the formative years of Cole's still ongoing solo career for anyone, like me, who never gave it the attention it clearly deserved. The Commotions' box set is on order and, better late than never, I'll be investigating Cole's back catalogue on the strength of the second half of this album.

A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble, Exploding in Your Mind: The Wizards of Oz
A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble, Exploding in Your Mind: The Wizards of Oz
Price: £11.25

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Antipodean Psychedelic Odyssey, 5 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Amorphous Androgynous duo Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain (a.k.a. The Future Sound of London) return with the fourth instalment of their 'A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding in Your Mind)' series. Much like the previous three volumes, this is more a collection of crate digging treasures than a lesson in mixology. There are some overdubs and mixing but most songs appear to be played out in full and then skilfully woven together to form two discs of uninterrupted music that flow really well.

Focussing exclusively on Australian and New Zealand artists, the music ranges from the mid 60s up to the modern day but the majority of tracks are from the Sixties and Seventies. Lots of different genres are represented from Prog, Jazz, Krautrock (Aussierock?!), Raga, Folk, etc with everything having a distinctly psychedelic vibe. I expect that a lot of the songs will be unknown to all but the most obsessive followers of the Antipodean music scene of the past 50 years.

Many highlights, including the wordless vocals on the sparse and trippy 'This Early Broadminded's Emptiness' by Hiroshi & Claudia. The repetitive percussion and synths on Cybotron's 'Raga In Asia Minor' from 1978 sounds like it should have been recorded in Düsseldorf and Rob Thomsett's 'Flight of Yaraan' features some excellent lead guitar and synthetic horns. Ash Grunwald sounds like modern day Australia's answer to Iggy Pop on the heavy rocking 'Walking' and 'Waves of Aquarius' by Kanguru is, as its title suggests, 10 minutes of meditational Raga vibes. There are a couple of underwhelming songs, particularly Mandu's cover of 'Gimme Shelter', but on the whole the selections are dead on the money.

Superior to the first two volumes in the series and almost as good as Volume 3, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys listening to anything that's a bit out of the ordinary. Housed in a double gatefold digipak inside a cardboard slip cover, the combined playing time of both discs is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2015 6:32 AM BST

Remington MB4850 Indestructible Beard Trimmer
Remington MB4850 Indestructible Beard Trimmer
Offered by GB Gifts
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An underwhelming but "virtually indestructible" trimmer, 17 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First off, the packing for this trimmer is bordering on the ridiculous. It comes in a big case made of hard plastic and I thought I'd been sent a power drill by mistake! Inside the trimmer and accessories are tightly packed in place with cardboard. Remove the cardboard packaging and you're left with an over-sized and useless storage box because everything just rattles around inside. You could easily fit three trimmers and their accessories inside...

It's big, it's heavy and it probably is "virtually indestructible" unless you were to throw it at full force against a brick wall. Ergonomically I do find the handle too big compared to other shavers I've used and it feels a bit clumsy. On the upside it has a large battery that does last long but even from the very start with a full charge it just seems underpowered compared to other trimmers I've used. It has three heads - one for using with the adjustable comb, a stubble blade and a smaller detail blade for more refined trimming. I only use it without the adjustable comb and it leaves you with about 2 days worth of stubble. I have quite an aggressive stubble and because of the slow motor speed it's NOT a smooth experience.

Ultimately, I've got compare this with the Philips BT5260/33 Beard Trimmer that beats it hands down. It's more compact and ergonomically sound, has a more powerful (and long lasting) battery and it only has one head that rotates for refined trimming. If you're in the market for a trimmer, opt for the Philips - it's so much better.

Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers of The 60s
Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers of The 60s
Price: £11.93

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Italian Ye-Ye, 28 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Clocking in at 67:40 minutes, this compilation features 24 Sixties tracks sung by Italian female singers. The songs are a mix of groovy R&B hipshakers, beat, garage, girly pop and powerfully sung ballads with, of course, plenty of kitsch vibes. With all of the songs sung in Italian, it's a satisfying collection.

Highlights include Ornella Vanoni's timeless and beautiful Bossa Nova infused 'L'appuntamento' that's been one of my favourite songs longer than I care remember. It's easily the best song here (even if it does sound totally at odds with most of the others songs). Caterina Caselli power vocals on 'Sono Qui Con Voi' - a cover of Them's 'Baby Please Don't Go' - are a thing of wonder and Gigliola Cinquetti's heartbreaking 'Non Ho L'Eta (Per Amarti)' features some beautiful orchestration. 'Questa Sinfonia' by Carmen Villani features some cool yé-yé backing vocals and a cello briefly plays the riff of The Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'!

Featuring a 20 page colour booklet with well researched notes on all of the artists & songs and archive photos, this is another welcome release from Ace.

Bose ® SoundSport In Ear Headphones for Samsung Galaxy - Green
Bose ® SoundSport In Ear Headphones for Samsung Galaxy - Green

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality sound and "you'll forget you're wearing them" comfort, 12 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been using these headphones daily for the past month when walking out and about and also when lounging around the house and they are the most comfortable earphones I've ever worn.

The soft silicone tips are superb and hold the earphones in place using the contours of your ear just above the ear hole. The other end of the tip forms a funnel that sits just inside your ear. Once you put them on they stay securely in place and you don't have keep readjusting them like you do with normal earphones. They're so comfortable that I forget that I'm wearing them.

Given that they're Bose, the overall sound quality is more or less first class. I'll dispense with most of the usual clichés except to say that the bass although NOT quite 100% perfect, sounds unforced and natural with no bass boost gimmicks. I always use David Axelrod's bass heavy 'Songs of Innocence' as the benchmark for the bass quality in earphones, headphones and speakers and after some slight adjustments to my phone's EQ levels in Poweramp it sounded fine, as does the rest of my music. You can turn the volume right up and they cope with ease with no noticeable distortion even at the very highest level.

There's no noise cancellation and you do hear cars driving by unless you have the volume exceptionally loud. Personally I prefer some awareness when I'm out and about but if you need noise cancellation, forget about these.

They use the traditional 'Y' wire design with the inline mic and remote hanging just below the right jaw. I have the ones that are compatible with Samsung Galaxy devices but everything works as it should with my Vodafone branded smartphone running Android 4.2.2 (Jellybean). You can skip backwards and forwards between tracks, pause tracks (which I find really handy) and it also has a mic for when you receive phone calls. I've used it a few times to take calls and it works just fine with callers hearing me without any problems - just press the Pause button on the remote when your phone rings and you're connected with the caller immediately. The inline mic and remote don't work with my iPad, so make sure you order the right ones.

They look good with the cable having an intertwined grey and green pattern with the Bose logo printed on the outer of each earphone. They come with an extension lead, three different size silicone tips, a tiny spring clip and a handy carry / storage zip pouch.

All things considered, I can't really find much at all to fault with these. I was previously using a pair of Sennheiser in-ear neckband headphones that alleviated the problem of having to re-adjust my earphones but these are, comfort wise, in a different league altogether. If you value comfort, Bose quality sound and don't need noise cancellation, buy these.

Aqua Optima EVG201 Evolve Gold 90-day Water Filter
Aqua Optima EVG201 Evolve Gold 90-day Water Filter
Offered by Multi Lines
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper price, same quality, 14 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Cheaper than Brita's Matrix cartridges, water filtered through these cartridges tastes just the same and it removes the hassle of changing Brita branded ones every month. Before buying, check the price of the 12 Month Pack. Due to Amazon's weird pricing policy it's sometimes cheaper than the 6 Month Pack.

AmazonBasics In-Ear Headphones with Microphone - Black
AmazonBasics In-Ear Headphones with Microphone - Black
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vey good value but with (expected) limited sound quality, 13 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For the price, these are a good value earphones. They're very comfortable to wear, come with three different size ear tips and they have a built in mic that works perfectly for hands-free phone calls. When listening to music the sound is OK, nothing more; nothing less and you get what you pay for. Everything sounds a bit shrill and after about half an hour, listening fatigue sets in. They're fine when listening to audiobooks, watching videos and for phone calls. However, if you listen to lots of music you'll probably find them, as their name suggests, too basic.

Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994 - 2014
Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994 - 2014
Price: £24.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilco Loves You!, 4 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although a popular band with a loyal fan base, Jeff Tweedy's Wilco have never really scaled the commercial heights that their music deserves. They've been one of my favourite bands since I first heard their second album 'Being There' in 1996 and this has been my most eagerly anticipated release of the year. Consisting of contributions to soundtracks and tribute albums, live songs, demos and alternate versions, all of the songs have been released in various guises (iTunes exclusives, soundtrack albums, bonus CDs, downloads, etc.) at some stage or other but most are, as the title implies, Rare Tracks.

The box set itself is beautiful. The outer slipcase is not much bigger than a DVD case and inside, side-by-side, are a 66 page colour booklet and a three-gatefold cardboard case that holds the four CDs. Simple, sturdy and effective, it doesn't suffer from over-engineering or flimsy design like so many box sets do nowadays. The booklet features loads of archive photos, anecdotes, some well written essays, recording and release details for all of the tracks and Jeff Tweedy gives his thoughts on many of the songs.

Chronologically ordered, the 77 songs clock in at 4 hours and 40 minutes and there's much to enjoy. The live version of 'Impossible Germany' is mind blowing with the Television style duelling guitars and Nels Cline's staggering extended guitar solo, it's better then the studio version. Most of the covers (Big Star, Steely Dan, Buffalo Springfield, etc.) remain faithful to the originals and their guitar heavy cover of the Gram Parsons written 'One Hundred Years from Now' is the best recording of the song I've heard. Full marks to Tweedy for his falsetto on the third verse of 'I Shall Be Released' (funny but cool!) and the memory of the late multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett lives on with many of his co-writes and playing featuring on Discs 2 & 3. The alternative versions though interesting are never better than the originals but what this collection does highlight, much like the 'Kicking in Television' live album, is what a well drilled and impressive live act Wilco are.

In summary, this is a box set befitting of one of the best and most consistent bands of the past 20 years. With a 2CD Best of also released on the same day, Tweedy's father/son album from a couple of months ago and no new Wilco album for over three years, it'll be interesting to see and hear what they do next. Hopefully they won't leave it too much longer...
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2015 6:15 PM BST

Pinzon by Amazon Egyptian Cotton Sateen, Taupe, King Fitted Sheet
Pinzon by Amazon Egyptian Cotton Sateen, Taupe, King Fitted Sheet

5.0 out of 5 stars Quality fitted sheet, 4 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really good fitted sheet that stays in place on our king-size mattress with no problems whatsoever. It's comfortable too and a nice tight fit but not so tight that the cotton stretches. Its colour is more greyish than the photographs here suggest.

The Spacey Bruce Lacey: Film Music And Improvisations- Volume 1 and 2
The Spacey Bruce Lacey: Film Music And Improvisations- Volume 1 and 2
Price: £9.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Spacey experimentation and improvisation, 1 Dec. 2014
Bruce Lacey is a man of many talents. Painter, actor, film maker, spiritualist, improvisation / performance artist, eccentric, musician - these are just a few of the talents he's known for (perhaps, even, unknown for). This compilation from Trunk could not have been released by any other label - it's almost as if Lacey saw into the future when he recorded this music and imagined it being released by Trunk years later.

Made using cheap home built synthesisers to accompany Lacey's films, art installations and performances, etc, a lot of the sounds heard are improvised and Spacey uses everything from bottle blowing to typewriter keys (and possibly even the kitchen sink) alongside his modified synths to create these sounds. There's very little in the way of melodies, just lots of weird and sometimes wonderful strange abstract sounds that are, at times, reminiscent of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Lacey experiments with voice synthesisation to good effect and some of the later drone tracks have a real ambient vibe to them and wouldn't have sounded out of place on last year's I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age In America compilation.

If you're a Trunk aficionado then you'll know what to expect and to be honest, this is not a record that'll be on heavy rotation. It's just something I'll put on when I'm in the mood to listen to something a bit "out there" or if I want to annoy my girlfriend. With an introduction by Jonny Trunk in the sleeve notes and a superb essay by William Fowler, the Curator of Artists' Moving Image at the BFI National Archive, this is another welcome release by Trunk. 3½ stars.

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