23 albums and what do you get?
Another Day Older and Deeper in Deaf
Chris Marling spends too much time listening to some dodgy CDs we
Jaed - Dirty Days (Instant Karma)
Belting debut album from Aussie teen Jaed. She wears her grungy influences
on her sleeve, with obvious reference points being Veruca Salt, L7,
Hole and Nirvana, but when the songs are this good and this much fun,
who cares? Much like a female version of Nine Black Alps, Dirty Days
is reverential yet refreshingly young and lively enough to mean you
don't care - like a good action movie, you happily suspend your beliefs
and just go with the flow. There's some pretty heavy lyrical stuff on
here, with a tough upbringing of drug and drink problems exposed, but
some comedy interludes means it never gets stodgy and over emotional.
Expect great things.
Gary Numan - Jagged (Cooking Vinyl)
I used to love Numan when I was little. He was the first gig I went
to without a "grown up" with me, at Hammersmith Odeon in about
1983, and he was amazing. Sadly, it all went to poop, and he's spent
20 or so years playing to the same 1,000 die-hards across the globe,
eking out an existence thanks to a small adoring public. Last outing
Hybrid saw him reinvent some of his classics with no small success,
and this continues the renaissance. It's still Gary Numan, but there
are moments here that are nearly as invigorating as classics like Down
in the Park and Are Friends Electric? He can now once more stand alongside
the likes of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, who did such a good
job of taking his ideas and making them reality where he was failing
The Fondas - Dirty Kick (Levelsound)
For someone who's press release describes them as "the must-see,
must-hear act of 2006", their debut album is patchy at best. There
are some corkers on Dirty Kick - Sleep grabbed me like all the best
bits of Clearlake, and opener D'ya Feel Lucky? Is a lovely yet anarchic
indie romp, but for each gem is a turd or two, with some real plodding
pub rock nightmares in the shadows of the good stuff. By the end, sadly,
the majority falls into the latter category, and there's a lot of it
about at the moment. Some great tunes here, but its not a great album.
Probably cracking live though.
Ellenby - All You Need to Know (Levelsound)
Accomplished, talented, spirited, and utterly, utterly dull. Folk rock
with a heart full of passion but absolutely no musical balls at all.
Turgid nonsense, which is as painfully worthy as it us pointless. Music
for people with no soul. Really, I cannot describe how bloody awful
this truly is. A bunch of second-rate show tunes, but with no show to
hang them on.
Killing Joke - Hosannas From the Basement of HELL (Cooking Vinyl)
Much like their recent live shows, everything about this album scream
"lost it big time" - only the true believers are staying with
this nutjob now. Killing Joke were a seminal band but now they're reduced
to a second-rate goth album a million miles from the boundaries they
used to push. Perhaps they should drop the "Killing" from
their name to better reflect their new position in the world of seriously
noisy music. Definitely an album too far, and only for the die-hards.
Jegsy Dodd & the Original Sinners - Wake Up and Smell the Offy
I'm happy to say that having John Cooper Clarke sign a Frisbee for me
at a shit club in Nottingham is one of my favourite rock star memories,
and I now hope Jegsy Dodd will one day do the same (but hopefully not
in the same shit club/city). If you hadn't guessed, this reminds me
a lot of the classic punk poet, the only difference being the crap backing
keyboards he felt he had to use when he was recording are actually used
to reasonably good effect here (although there are some distinctly dodgy
"doo wup wups" by some dodgy bird). But the important thing
is obviously the words themselves, and our Jegsy is a funny man. It
doesn't all work, but if you want some comic and often poignant poetry
in the wake of the tragic death of Ivor Cutler and the virtual disappearance
of the Clarke, you could do a damn sight worse.
Warner Brothers - The Platinum Collection
Pretty good cheapo "Best of" featuring most of the classics,
including Mirror in the Bathroom, Hands off She's Mine, Can't Get Used
to Losing You and Too Nice to Talk To but missing the classic Tears
of a Clown and a few other beauties, like Hit It. Shame, but if you
want a slice of one of the better 2-Tone bands of the classic 1980 crop,
this is (currently) on Amazon for £3.33 - can't go wrong.
Like The Beat, this is pretty good too, including all five singles from
the classic Big Calm album, plus Trigger Hippy from their debut and
World Looking In and Way Beyond from the third and fourth albums. They
were a great trip hop band and are still going strong - one of those
bands I reckon everyone should have a CD by. This is too light on tracks
from Who Can You Trust? and a bit of a missed opportunity to put on
some of the more interesting tunes, like live classic Big Calm, but
a bargain all the same.
It's got My Coo Ca Choo on, as well as Be Smart, Be Safe (The Green
Cross Code Song). What more do you need to know? Erm. He wore bad 70s
clothes, but then everyone did in the 70s, and it's kinda like Slade
or someone like that. Glam eh. Crazy.
Well I was expecting Mr Buzzcocks and I got some second rate 70s crooner
with massive collars, sitting on a stool, whining about women. Don't
make the same mistake kids! Includes the classics (I'm guessing here)
Gee Baby (first track, so has to be the biggy) and some dodgy covers
like Leaving on a Jetplane and By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Although,
if you're in the right mood, it isn't so bad
Better than Killing
This is actually the Singles Collection repackaged. What a swizz. But
if you haven't got that, and want to be reminded of this rather twee
and poppy early 80s Scottish indie folk band (think Aztec Camera) it's
just about perfect. I don't really like them for the same reasons I
didn't like The Alarm and Icicle Works - they always seemed to be the
TA of the music world, being a bit good but not really scary or impressive
or something to aspire to, and your mum wouldn't mind if your sister
brought them home for tea.
Windout - Onward (demo album)
Apparently Windout are the best band in St Neots. If that's the case,
it's safe to say I won't be attending any local gigs there in the near
future. They're certainly not shit, but there's not an ounce of originality
here, or any clever or particularly moving lyrics, great songs - just
some painfully ordinary pub friendly indie rock anything that's make
you think of putting "best" in a description. Bit like saying
"best Tory politician" really - cos frankly, who cares?
Intention - Afraid at the Edges (Black Records)
I don't really feel qualified to comment on this kind of stuff nowadays,
but it sounds pretty typical of the genre to me. It's the debut album
from this Walsall noise outfit, who loftily compare themselves to the
likes of Dead Kennedys (but less imaginative), GBH (but less intense)
and Sick of it All (but less fun) and make a pretty decent fist of it
all. Not my cup of tea, but worth checking out if you like it fast and
The Destroyed - Russian Roulette (self released)
Remember the days when punk was hard to listen to? I don't mean because
it was new, and you weren't used to it - I mean when a lot of the bands
were just bug-eyed retards who made a god-awful racket to a bunch of
glue-sniffing morons? Crass got away with it by being a bit arty, incredibly
intelligent and packing a mean message, but most didn't, and this is
another example of the wrong end of the scale. Tuneless, pointless,
talentless and hopelessly dated.
MJ Hibbert & The Validators - Shed Anthems (Sorted)
I didn't get sent this for free, I bought it, and it's not new either
- I just wanted to say nice things about it, as it's a new discovery
to me and he seems to play Cambridge semi-regularly. Mr Hibbert plays
silly songs about a variety of subjects, ranging from rock competitions
(Let the Weird Band Win) to the World Cup (The Fair Play Trophy (Again)),
also taking in a beautifully realised cover as a bonus track (I won't
spoil the surprise). Anyone craving a Midlands version of the mighty
Half Man Half Biscuit or perhaps Ballboy could do a lot worse than checking
this lot out. It's a mini album full of great observational lines about
everyday life ("I'm ensconced in academia, you, you're still in
bed") coupled with a lovely, clever yet innocent sense of humour.
I think it's safe to say you'll never listen to a Bolivian nose flautist
in the same way again after hearing Shed Anthems.
The Vines - Vision Valley (EMI)
Who exactly do this lot appeal to? There are some belting sleazy indie
noise monster riffs on here, like Anysound, Grossout and Fuk Yeh, but
the rest is either late Beatlesy pap, psychedelic nonsense or turgid
balladic claptrap of the highest order. Remember a band called Ratcat?
No, most people don't. They made a short and largely unheralded career
of making stuff like this, but generally better, and got nowhere. I'd
suggest The Vines should go the same way, fast, or concentrate on what
they do well instead of trying to please everyone with a disappointing
mish mash of largely worthless retro.
John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt (Barsuk Records)
This is a well-composed collection, mixing up guitars and keys with
obvious skill but ultimately leaving me cold. Pixel Revolt is a little
too polished, a little too clever and a little too soulless to make
a real impact. Apart from the lovely Trance Manual (which would sit
comfortably on a good Eels album) I quickly forget this is on, which
is never a good sign. I suppose the comparisons in the press release
to Steely Dan and REM should've warned me really.
Nadie - The M'Maughton Rule (Hal Records)
Nadie is a fine purveyor of polished pop rock that sadly falls down
for its lack of originality. This is the kind of album that, with a
shed-load of money behind it, could easily trouble the chart, but without
it will struggle to find an audience. She's a beautiful woman with a
fantastic voice and an undoubted song writing talent - there are more
catchy hooks on here than you'd need for a barrel of hits, but without
backing she's a small fish in a big pond that worships money far and
away ahead of talent. But if you're looking for an angsty female singer-songwriter
with a great line in tunes that you can probably catch in a London pub
for a fiver, look no further.
The Dresden Dolls - Yes Virginia (Roadrunner)
Odd pair these. Plenty of theatrical pianos ala Ben Folds, a slightly
off-kilter yet hugely talented female vocal plus some drums and the
occasional male harmony make for a quirky, playful yet ultimately poppy
collaboration that nods all over the pace - one minute there's a bit
of Queen, the next a bit of emo, the next Joe Jackson. Hard to define,
perhaps, but anyone who likes a good bit of plinkerty plink grand piano
action in the classic rock opera vein will be happy here, while those
with a penchant for the ever so slightly avante garde will also have
plenty to twirl their moustaches to.
Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel (Mute)
You've got to hand it to these boys - seventy squillion albums of keyboard
noises (pretty often the same ones) and still going strong, with hardly
a new band member, idea, image or haircut in all that time. But if it
ain't broke, don't give it to the dog, as they say, and the only thing
that surprises me about Playing the Angel is that it's bloody marvellous.
I was watching the classic 101 DVD the other day, and somehow, even
with all the horrible American 80s kids tagging along, Depeche Mode
the band still looked cool. How an 80s new romantic band can stay timeless
is truly miraculous, but tracks like the hugely uplifting John the Revelator
and Enjoy the Silence rip-off Precious are as good as anything they've
done. Long may they continue.
Richard Ashcroft - Keys to the World (Parlaphone)
Frankly, I never liked Verve, so this album never stood much of a chance.
However, I didn't think it'd be as bad as it was. I haven't managed
to get past track 3 yet, as its so painfully dull, plodding and worthless
up to that point. But my young lady friend implored me to give title
track Keys to the World a go (doubt I'd ever have made it all the way
to track 5 for it, even on a very charitable day), so I did, and, what
do you know, it's actually pretty good. Nice upbeat female soul sample,
bit of dramatic keyboard, bit of life in the vocal - it's a good song.
Not great, but good. But 6 is pitiful, and 7 as bad. Guess I'll never
hear 4, 8, 9 and 10. But I'll live.
Regina Spektor - Mary Ann meets the Gravediggers and other short
Wow. Regina Spektor has a beautiful individual voice, startlingly vivid
imagination, no fear when it comes to song writing and an ear for a
tune rivalled by few. While the "girl-with-piano" thing is
going to lead to the obvious lazy Tori Amos comparisons being thrown
at her, there's a lot more going on here than the ginger poppy Kate
Bush rip-off ever had to offer. Ani DiFranco at her most jazzy and playful
comes leaping out at you, as does the wildness and freedom of Patti
Smith, but most of all the childlike lack of convention and strange
stories set her apart from anything I've ever heard before. This is
actually a compilation of earlier tracks collected from her earlier
albums, but it's a good starting point for the Regina virgin. A truly
Various - Blue Skies Up: Welcome to the new Pop Revolution (Dog
This is apparently the "choicest cuts from the Dogbox kennel"
and while it houses more than its fair share of little terriers, there's
a good few that need picking up with inside-out poo bags. Highlights
for me are Swimmer One's We Just Make Music For Ourselves (intelligent
poppy electronica), Planetakis's Beautiful Today (mostly sung in foreign
but a great slice of alternative euro pop), Gotta Go by the Shla La
Las (fun girly garage pop punk) and The Lodger's Not So Fast (slightly
twee but beautifully measured indie pop nougat) but the outstanding
track is Bed Scenes by Robots in Disguise - a clever and hugely infectious
indie dance tune to pump up loud before you hit the pub. Not bad for
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