Acoustic Ladyland produced the unprecidented genre-mash "Last Chance Disco" in 2005, melding jazz and punk to create something that could well be called pazz (I would deeply resent it being described as junk). Their new album, "Skinny Grin", has expanded upon the ideas of the previous record. While the earlier album relied on the same bass and keyboard tones throughout (without being repetitive, I must add), this album displays more confidence in the band's style and therefore a more adventurous use of instrument sounds. There are also more tracks with vocals, the engaging lyrics snarled and mumbled in a London accent by saxophonist and bandleader Peter Wareham as well as guest vocalists Alice Grant and Coco Electrik. The musicianship is excellently chaotic without ever feeling like the song will go off the rails, and the songwriting is quite simply exciting. With only a month left of 2006, it will take a pretty spectacular last-minute release for any other album to top my end-of-year list.
Not quite jazz, not quite punk, not quite pop, not quite avant-garde. All sorts of wonderful. You really, really ought to hear this if you have any interest whatsoever in contemporary British music, be it jazz or rock or whatever. Yes, bits of it are dissonant and difficult, yes it's frenetic and even violent on occasion, but it's also imbued with human spirit, adventure and magic. Invest. You will be rewarded.
Punk has dabbled with jazz in its time (Karate, Burning Airlines, etc.) but the notion of formally-trained musicians signed to a jazz label taking up where Fugazi left off when they went on "indefinite hiatus" seemed fanciful at best. That, though, is just what Acoustic Ladyland did on 2005's "Last Chance Disco". On the follow-up, "Skinny Grin", Peter Wareham still plays his saxophone as if it were a guitar, but there is more stylistic variation and greater use of vocals. One minute the ghost of Jimi Hendrix rears its head, the next you're wondering if that's Suggs from Madness at the mic. Space is also found for avant-garde noise, classical piano, bludgeoning Napalm Death-style guitar, primitive punk and even an R 'n B song with female vocals. The common factor is sheer exuberance which, such is the competence of the band, never goes off the rails. Make no mistake - Acoustic Ladyland are class.
A bit of a disappointment compared to 'Last Chance Disco' IMO.
The root of the problem is the increased number of songs i.e. tracks with lyrics. They've resulted in much more conventioanl song structures, and I'm not sure that either the lyrics or the songs themselves make up for the loss of some of the exuberance that so marked 'Last Chance Disco' that results.
It's still a record showing way more imagination and ambition than most, but IMO they'd be better off going back to find their expression in the music itself and ignoring more conventional (and commerical) song writing.
Sorry to disagree, but contrary opinions make the world the way it is.....I bought this on the strength of comment herein, and because I thought the artwork was interesting! I can't listen to it...A raucous noise with no definable structures coupled with toe-curling vocals. No warmth of feeling...Just an exercise in random playing under the guise of being 'avant garde'...? I have a huge collection of music spanning all genre, and my latest passion is jazz in all it's forms. This is the only CD that I own in which I cannot find some merit....Maybe it's me....