Saturday, 17 February 2018

Super Furry Animals ‎Rings Around The World US Album


Super Furry AnimalsRings Around The World

Get It At Discogs
Super Furry Animals' leap to a major label in the U.K. with Rings Around the World isn't that drastic of a change -- Fuzzy Logic was also released on Epic in the U.S., Creation was subsidized by Sony, and they never were exactly wanting of money on their previous records -- but the band nevertheless seizes the opportunity to consolidate their strengths, providing an introduction for listeners that may not have been paying attention before. As such, it's hard not to consider it as a bit of a missed opportunity, since this is the first SFA album not to progress from its predecessor, or offer the shock of the new, and that's hard not to miss -- but, if this is the first SFA record you hear, it'll likely intrigue, even dazzle, with its kaleidoscopic blend of pop, prog, punk, psych, and electronica. Still, this is nearly Super Furry Cliff Notes, offering a glossy, big-screen variation on all of their themes -- decadently lush pop-psych, chugging rock & roll, bitter leftism, sublimely warped imagery, experimentalism wrapped in luxurious productions. Alluring, to be sure, and satisfying, too, and there certainly are wonderful details scattered throughout the album, the least of which are cameos by John Cale and Paul McCartney. Plus, there is exceptional songwriting here, such as the cinematic "Juxtaposed With U," "Sidewalk Serfer Girl," and "Receptacle for the Respectable," which encapsulates nearly every side of the band within five minutes. Still, it's hard not to want a little more from the band that was the best pop band of the late '90s. It's hard not to at least want surprises (since there are none) or, if it's going to be a consolidation, to have it be a statement of purpose, since it lacks either an overarching theme or a music that gels. So, it's not what it could have been, but what it is is still pretty damn great, satisfying with its melodies, textures, and ideas. Compared to what Super Furry Animals have done before,

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Levellers ‎Greatest Hits


The LevellersGreatest Hits

Get It At Discogs
The Levellers have proven themselves worthy rock contenders with a slew of organic anthemic pop-rock songs that fuel a lengthy twenty-six-year career. The band have managed to attract a cult following during those years, but haven’t received the widespread attention that they truly deserve. With the release of this deluxe 2 CD Greatest Hits Album, could this be their chance to turn this around? After all, there’s plenty here to keep the most dedicated of rock-listeners happy and engaged.It should be noted that this isn’t your average Greatest Hits album; The Levellers haven’t merely thrown together a list of their most-loved songs on 2 CDs and left it at that. Many of these tracks have been re-recorded and given a new lease of life by adding guest artists into the mix. Billy Bragg lends his strong vocals to the song Hope Street, giving it an element of soul while violins and banjos serenade him. Even long-time Levellers fan, Frank Turner joins in the action, lending his vocal talents to Julie. Likewise, Imelda May’s strong female singing voice is perfect for Beautiful Day. Of course, if these new collaborations don’t quite suit your listening needs, the versions with lead singer Mark Chadwick’s vocals are also present here. Not that there’s anything wrong with the new versions since they add some variety to the record with its special guests.The addition of guest artists aside, the album is a commendable display of The Levellers’ ability to craft anthemic pop-rock songs. A particular stand-out is One Way, bursting out with a strong rhythm section with singer Mark Chadwick passionately declaring “There is only one way of life and that’s your own, your own, your own” as he berates the working class lifestyle. Indeed, those who want their music to have a message won’t be disappointed here. Catchy rock song, Burn America Burn details the way the States are depicted in the media and how it is slowly destroying itself. It’s a song with rhythmic, grumbling guitars and a grouchy vocal from Chadwick, an honesty that doesn’t find its way into many songs in rock.However, it would be honesty in itself for me to say that that The Levellers are one of the most criminally overlooked and underrated bands of all time. With some honest songwriting, great hooks and famous artists such as Billy Bragg and Frank Turner joining them on the record, The Levellers have put together an impressive collection of their hits and more, re-establishing themselves towards a brand new audience and hopefully garnering the recognition they deserve. If you’re looking for foot-tapping alternative rock, then you’ve come to the right place.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Future Sound Of London ‎Lifeforms


The Future Sound Of LondonLifeforms

Get It At Discogs
Having indulged in more explicitly ambient realms with the Amorphous Androgynous side project, FSOL returned to full action with Lifeforms, a double-disc effort that ranks as one of the best experimental techno releases of the '90s. If not as immediately memorable on a song per song basis as, say, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works collections, as an overall piece, Lifeforms makes for an inventive, fascinating aural experience, as rich and detailed as the Orb's best work. Where FSOL differs from that band in particular is the comparative lack of overt humor and less immediate desire to make people groove -- this is something to listen to rather than necessarily dance to. In comparison to Accelerator, this is an extremely subtle listen, with rhythms generally buried in the mix, serving the melodies rather than vice versa. In comparison to the upfront breaks and steady house beats just two years previous, here they're stuttered, echoed, often approaching dub in pace and impact. Meanwhile, the space-alien bubbles and noises and haunting tones take to the fore, making for a disorienting, evocative experience, a mix of natural sounds and artificial elements much like the band's own artwork. Even the singles, "Cascade" and "Lifeforms," play down the beat. The one for "Cascade" is barely there, swooping samples and soft synth hooks to the fore, while "Lifeforms," for its comparatively more direct impact, relies as much on its keyboard swell and chiming melody as much as the complex overlay of rhythms. There are a few guest appearances here and there, but they're mostly notable for how the band incorporate them instead of letting them stand out -- Robert Fripp's guitar on "Flak," Talvin Singh's tablas on "Life Form Ends," and Toni Halliday from Curve doing a "vocal texture" on "Cerebral."

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

808 State 808:88:98



808 State 808:88:98

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Celebrating, as the title hints at, ten years of work together, 808:88:98 makes the brilliant case for 808 State's place as a modern techno pioneer. Time has shown that while a rougher breakbeat approach ended up defining much of dance in the broad public eye during the '90s, 808 State's own slightly cleaner approach was no less energetic and instantly compelling. Starting with the hyperactive shimmer and smooth flow of "Pacific," an instant trip back to the acid house days of the late '80s, 808:88:98 merrily makes its way through the years, touching on both the smash hits and some side diversions. The guitar mania and prototypical synth riff blare of "Cubik" provides the second blast, while both tunes reappear at the end in 1998 remixes. 808 State practically invented the "famous guest vocalist" cameo in techno and a slew of its various collaborations are sprinkled throughout. Bernard Sumner and Ian McCulloch aren't included, while regretfully the resolutely unspectacular MC Tunes is ("The Only Rhyme That Bites" isn't even much musically), but otherwise it's a feast of choices. Björk's playfully dark spin on "Ooops" (the clear harbinger of her eventual solo career), the Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield's winsome turn on "Lopez," and even UB40's work on "One in Ten" all make for reasonable crossover winners, though Lamb's Louise Rhodes steals the show with "Azura." For all that, the group's own work stands out most of all, from the threatening vocal snippets and drum slams of "In Yer Face" to the multi-percussive clatter and charge of "Bombadin." An appreciative essay makes the case for the band's landmark work and broad appeal, among other things noting that 808 State played for American crowds numbering in the thousands well before the major labels thought techno even existed.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Lionrock ‎An Instinct For Detection



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There's something joyous afoot throughout Lionrock's excellent, overlooked gem of an album An Instinct for Detection. Equal parts throbbing, frazzled instrumentals and tracks with too-cool vocals, the entire album shines. When things get heavy, Justin Robertson and company throw in hilarious samples, before getting back to the business of creating a soundtrack for city life. The instrumental tracks, abuzz with inebriated electronics, work in a caffeinated vein, repeatedly suggesting a controlled driving force; it's first-class dance music when it goes the dance route. Particularly delightful tracks along this path are the absolutely ominous-sounding dark movements of "Death Valley Clapperboard" and the evocative film noir suggestions of "The Guide." Vocalist MC Buzz B uses a vocal inflection that is entirely infectious on "Straight at Yer Head," "Peace Repackaged," and "Depth." His style is a cross between singing and syncopated speech; the ultra-precise enunciation works as an excellent counterpoint to the aggressive, accessible throttle of the music. Perhaps the album didn't catch on with a wider audience because it came too early in the electronica boom of the late '90s, but it certainly contains massive charms and a handful of tracks that could very easily be hit singles. An Instinct for Detection is a remarkable, wonderful album that shows consistent mastery of the pop and electronica genres. It's the perfect example of an album that masters dance and pop music, and it is perhaps the greatest lost classic of the '90s in any genre.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Belle & Sebastian ‎The Boy With The Arab Strap


Belle & SebastianThe Boy With The Arab Strap

Get It At Discogs
Belle & Sebastian quietly built a dedicated following after the release of their second album, If You're Feeling Sinister, as word of mouth spread from indie kids to record collectors to store clerks to critics. By the end of 1997, the Scottish septet had developed a following every bit as passionate as the Smiths did at their peak, which is only appropriate since leader Stuart Murdoch is as wittily literate as Morrissey. If You're Feeling Sinister proved this as did the three excellent EPs that followed, increasing expectations for The Boy With the Arab Strap. Even if the album doesn't match the peerless If You're Feeling Sinister or break new ground for Belle & Sebastian, it's not a sophomore slump. From the Motown stomp of "Dirty Dream Number Two" to the Paul Simon shuffle of the title track, there is more musical texture on Boy than Sinister, but much of this was already explored on the EPs, which means Arab Strap essentially consolidates the group's talents. Murdoch recedes from the spotlight on occasion, letting Steve Jackson deliver two music-biz spiels and giving Isobel Campbell space to shine with the lilting "Is It Wicked Not to Care?" All three songs are highlights, but Murdoch's songs still attract the most attention. His vicious wit, often overlooked in favor of his poetic narratives, surfaces on the title track, while "It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career" summarizes his effortless gift for elegant melancholia. Such small, precious gems are what Belle & Sebastian are all about, and The Boy With the Arab Strap offers another round of timeless, endlessly fascinating folk-pop treasures.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Various XFM Great Xpectations Live



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Great Xpectations Live documents a benefit concert for London's XFM radio station which took place in Finsbury Park in June of 1993. The sets of Belly, the Frank and Walters, Kingmaker, Carter USM, and Blur's Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon are highlighted, as well as show stealers the Cure ("Just Like Heaven" and a blistering "Distintegration") and Catherine Wheel (furious renditions of "I Want to Touch You" and "Chrome"). The sound quality of the performances are high-quality, and the tracks are edited together in a seamless listen

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Mark E. Smith 1957-2018 R.I.P.




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After the dark morass of Bend Sinister, the sound of 1988's Frenz Experiment comes as a bit of a shock. The arrangements are spare and broken down to the essentials, with the distorted guitars brought down low and Wolstencroft's drums high in the mix. Marcia Schofield had also joined the band to add keyboards. With most of the songs credited only to Smith himself, this could be seen as a solo album of sorts, or an indication of some rift within the group -- it certainly doesn't translate into the music. For the first time too, his vocals are loud and clear, though certainly not comprehensible; "Bremen Nacht" hints at some sort of run in with a ghost in Germany, "Athlete Cured," with its Spinal Tap-borrowed riff, tells of a "German athletic star" made ill from unusual circumstances -- the narrative turns strange, then funny until wandering off, a classic Smith tactic. Their cover of the Kinks' "Victoria" marked the Fall's first entry into the British charts, but also fit in with Smith's continuing explorations of Britain's history and how it translates into issues of class identity. The CD contains their other two singles from this time -- "Hit the North" and a cover of R. Dean Taylor's "There's a Ghost in My House," which the group makes their own -- plus several B-sides

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