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  tasty 17 - album reviews
  - Clean
The Pattern
All Tomorrow's Parties
Alpine Stars
Indiecent Exposure
AM 60
The Velvet Underground
- The Jesus and Mary Chain
Sonic Youth
Fonda 500
Elf Power


Clean - More or Less the Truth (Sugarshack Records)
When, over the last decade or so, you’ve heard every possible attempt to mix rock and dance, then Clean’s often clumsy attempts at being the next Pop Will Eat Itself can be a little tiresome. Especially on the really lip tracks here, such as ‘Right Now’ where they even end up sounding like a Jesus Jones b-side from 1991.

It’s on the straighter, rockier tracks such as opener ‘Stronger Man’ that Clean manage to sound as though they know what they’re doing. I try hard to like this album, but one has to wonder just what exactly they’re trying to achieve by limiting themselves to sounding like something that sounded a little bit crap ten years ago. Never mind.

The Pattern - Real Feelness (Wichita)
One step forward, two steps back, as Paula Abdul once sang, that  is what tasty thinks of the current fad for real rock music. Led by the neck kicking and screaming by a music press that can’t be bothered any more to find anything a little more cerebral, and lapped up by a record-buying youth who know no better, we may well find ourselves, very soon, in a worse state than we were before this lot of scruffy oiks popped up. And so The Pattern are absolutely no different to any of them, in fact they remind me of some kind of
US garage metal band of the mid-80s. The new Hanoi Rocks anyone?

Various - All Tomorrow’s Parties 2.0
Of course, ATP is the only festival worth going to these days. An event where you can relax with your own, without having to wade through fields of hippies offering you tea made from cow shit, or people with rainbow dreadlocks playing hardcore gabba for the entire weekend. You even get your own little chalet to kip in. Most civilised.

And the line-up is usually rather good too. This little souvenir features the best of  this year’s event, which saw Shellac, The Fall and The Breeders all at the same gig, a feat very rarely achieved. Other bands featured here include a most bizarre Bonnie Prince Billy playing the reggae-fied ‘Early Morning Melody’ and it’s good to see that US indie stalwarts Arcwelder haven‘t sold their soul to the devil and are still making fine music. Inevitably, for me at least, The Fall steal the show with the driving magnificence of ‘Two Librans’, a track that reassures me that the band are back to their snarling, tight, best. Special festival, pretty great album.

The Alpinestars - White Noise (Riverman Records)
Not quite electroclash, not quite indie, ‘White Noise’ sees The Alpinestars whip out 11 tracks of futuristic (by futuristic, I mean you should go back to 1981 and consider the word again) disco ditties.

Quite beautiful at times -see ‘Hotel Parallel’ for evidence, it has to be said that these lot are very easy on the ear. I could like them, if only I’d let myself, and, of course, I can’t consider such a thing.

Tender Trap - Film Molecules (Fortuna Pop!)
There’s always something of a frisson of excitement that accompanies a new Amelia Fletcher band, and Tender Trap are no different.

Through Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and now Tender Trap, Fletcher and her cohorts have been the vanguard of indie-pop/twee/C86 - call it what you will, but they’ve always made wonderful music.

And ‘Film Molecules’ is a wonderful thing too, a quite astonishing debut. Perhaps it’s the fact that is quite simply some of the most mainstream pop music Fletcher has made, perhaps it’s because it sounds wilfully out of time, perhaps it’s because huge chunks of it remind me of the first Kenickie album - I can’t quite put my finger on it.

The album veers wildly through the girl-pop of ‘Oh Katrina’ to the wonderfully lush ‘Son of Dorian Gray’ - my favourite here, and onto  early 80s synth pop such as ‘Face of 73’ - a song that Kylie and Sophie would just love to be able to sing...and the epic, eerie closer - ‘Your Are Gone’ which at over six minutes seems slightly out of sync with it’s fellow tunes, but never outstays it’s welcome.

There’s already been some wonderful records released this year, from people such as Milky Wimpshake, The Lucksmiths and Comet Gain. Add this beauty to your collection.


Various - Indiecent-Exposure (Quirk)
There seems to be a real lack of albums such as this. When I were a nipper you couldn’t move for compilation albums featuring tracks from unsigned bands. The
Snakebite City series springs to mind, for some reason, and so applause to Andy from indiecent exposure for putting together this 19 tracker.

To be honest, this album typically has its fair share of rubbish - I don’t understand Ciccone at all, and Slater are particular poor. But let’s not think about bad things, let’s look instead at the wonderful Lollies their space-pop offering ‘Call the Girls’, The Fairy Traders and The Fighting Cocks who may well be the most delightful and most scary human beings at the same time.

At £4.99 you can’t really go wrong with this album. As an introduction to those bands bubbling under, then Andy should be congratulated.

AM60 - Always Music 60 (Shifty Disco)
Always ones for something a little different, Shifty Disco release this little gem of an album from AM60, a band I really don’t think should be mentioned in the same breath as the crappy Fun Lovin Criminals, but the press release mentions them for some reason.

It’s good to hear a soppy old album sometimes, and this is one of them. Check out the titles, ‘Summertime Girlfriend’ - ‘Summer Nights’ for the next generation, ‘You and Me’ - a song so beautiful it fair brings a shudder to the spine, and ‘Girl for Me’ - easily the best track here with it’s fake crowd noise, comedy scratching, and the most gorgeously innocent vocal this side of Orville the Duck.

It’s hard to dislike AM60, after all, they’ve just written the perfect summer album. Get ‘em while their hot.....

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (Universal)
A marvellous 2-cd package of one of the most influential albums ever, featuring the mono and stereo versions of the album and then a selection of tracks from ‘Chelsea Girl’ on the stereo version and the single versions of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, ‘I’ll be Your Mirror’, ‘Sunday Morning’ and Femme Fatale’ on the mono disc.

Highlights? Everything, basically. Nico wailing through ‘Femme Fatale’ sounds even better in stereo and ‘Venus in Furs takes on a new dimension too.

‘Heroin’ remains the centrepiece of this stunning set of songs, and at over seven minutes long resonates long after the others have faded away.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - 21 Singles (Warners)
It may only be now, in these dark desolate days of ‘mainstream indie’ that we can put a price on the JAMC’s head. Can you imagine NME getting quite as excited about ‘Upside Down’ in 2002 as they did in 1984? No. Me neither.

And so as ‘Upside Down’ blasts from the speakers in a whole mess of fucked-up feedback, maybe it’s time to start being adventurous again. JAMC certainly did, because next is ‘Never Understand’ a canter through more primal hinterland that cuddles up nicely to ‘You Trip Me Up’.

For some, ‘Some Candy Talking‘ was, at the time, a new national anthem, whilst ‘April Skies’ with it’s cod-Elvis opening was one of the first singles I bought and remains one of the finest I own.

From hereon in we head into the ‘Darklands’ era , when the band were at their peak, both in terms of popularity and creativity. After all, two blokes from Scotland can only rely on feedback and a drum machine for so long. ‘Sidewalking’ is a  brutal, warped Americana of a song, whilst ‘Blues from a Gun’ remains one of their more commercial offerings of the period.

By the time of ‘Honey‘s Dead in 1992, baggy was at its peak and the JAMC didn’t have a home to go to. Pity us then, that at the time we thought the savage ‘Reverence’ was the last word in indie-dance and the way we used to fill the dance floors of every indie-club, kicking off the Northsiders in their flares whenever it came on. ‘Far Gone and Out’ follows the vogue of the time with its ‘funky drummer’ beat, but here ends prime time JAMC.

But, here’s not where the story ends. In 1994, JAMC had been around for a decade and were depicted as a band who, whilst fondly loved by a rapidly decreasing fan base and a handful of NME jounalists, were tolerated on the form of past glories, rather than hailed for new ones. However, tracks such as ‘Sometimes Always’ - a beautiful ditty with Hope Sandaval of Mazzy Star, and the crushing ‘Cracking Up’ sound excellent to these ears. If only JAMC hadn’t been written off see easily, we may not have seen them chucking in the towel so easily.

Bands such as Six by Seven and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club owe them much. The Pixies covered one of their songs - a honour in itself. And ‘April Skies’ will forever be etched on the mind of a 13 year old school boy. Cherish them.

Sonic Youth - Murray Street (Geffen)
The second in the Youth’s proposed cultural history of
Lower Manhattan, ‘Murray Street’ was at the centre of the September 11th disaster last year. It’s the road where Sonic Youth’s studios are, and where one of the engines from the hijacked planes hit the ground. To say this has influenced the album would be an understatement.

Musically, it’s hardly a return to anything resembling Sonic Youth at their most accessible, and as someone who’s never quite understood the allure of the band, much of it leaves me a little non-plussed. However, it beats much of what’s deemed as US alternative rock these days into a bloody pulp, and in places is a genuinely maudlin, emotional record.

Fonda 500 - No 1 Hi-Fi Hair (Truck Records)
Odd fuckers, these lot. One minute they’re charming the pants off you with ‘Computer Freaks of the Galaxy’, the next they’re trying to be the Super Furry Animals.

For the best part of this album, my pants are round my ankles, as Fonda 500, when they want to, can crank up a mean pop song, such as ‘The Magic Sunshine Butterfly’ - song so hippy-dippy it could have been written by Catweazle’s late 60s psyche outfit.

In quieter moments, such as ermm, ‘Bumble a Bumble b Bumble c Bumble d’ they sound to me like very early Mercury Rev.

The problem I have with this album is that it’s very disjointed and just doesn’t flow. That’s probably as it was meant to be, and it’s definitely my problem, however, there must be other simple souls out there who don’t want to sit through three minutes of run out groove sound effects.

Pants fully pulled up. I make my way home safe in the knowledge that Fonda 500 are far too clever for me.

Idlewild - The Remote Part (Parlophone)
The recent backlash against Idlewild highlights their predicament perfectly. A move towards a more mature sound, and a measured style of songwriting has got the doyennes of the ‘pit into something of a tizz, as they find that the new set of songs are harder to kick someone in the head to. The poor lambs.

Personally, I welcome the move towards sounding exactly like ‘Document’-era REM, especially on ‘American English’ and its ilk.

And really, for you lot who like to be squashed up in front of a sweaty large man at gigs, there’s enough here for you to chuck yourselves around to - ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’ is frantic enough to keep me awake - even at this hour. Growing old gracefully, then....Idlewild, not me, you understand....

Gerling - Headzcleaner (Mushroom)
Quite simply, fucking mental. When Gerling are good, they are very good - unfortunately on ‘Headcleanerz’ they dally about too much for my liking.

The wildly varying music is still there, but the band have taken to messing about with electronics too much, in this reviewers opinion. So, whereas ‘The Manual’  and ‘Fight Revolution Team’ come across like Barry Mooncult fronting The Clash. It’s on frankly dull tracks like the meandering ‘Serpentheadz’ that this record moves back to the average.

Which is all a very big shame because, without doubt, Gerling are one of the most exhilarating live bands. Just wish they’d play to their strengths, Brian.

Muse - Hullabaloo (Mushroom)
Not that I’m under any illusion at all that Muse are sat fretting about their review in tasty, but crikey, this is possibly some of the most overblown, pompous, downright rhubarb music I’ve ever had the displeasure to come across.

tasty has managed strictly to avoid Muse before now, and how we wished that we’d carried on this mission.

This is a collection of b-sides and a live recording all mashed together - quite why they think we need to hear all their b-sides again after a two year career is beyond me, but let me tell you this, they’re crap. That is all.

UHF - If It Was Easy (Sound Story Records)
Thank crikey then, that we have the languid psychedelia of UHF to round off a troublesome series of naughty albums.

This US four-piece based around the Leff brothers of Jeremy and Jordan (ouch!) don’t exactly make storming pop songs, there’s only 3 tracks under four minutes long here, but ‘If It Was Easy’ is such a relief after the M*se album that I want to eat it.

Personal favourites include the Byrdsian ‘Mr Grey’ which has some beautifully poppy guitar playing and makes me want to clap my hands for some reason.

In fact, what was I saying about this album not containing any pop songs. I am an idiot. ‘She’s Going Up’ is pure pop, with a cute buzzing guitar in the background and then - gadzooks - a trumpet that slips in half way through.

‘If It Was Easy’ is that kind of album - full of little surprises. I suggest you buy it.

Elf Power - Creatures (Shifty Disco)
And I would leave it there, but I feel it my duty to tell you about this very special album which reached me literally seconds before tasty went to be photocopied.

Elf Power have done away with all the tricksy pissing about that has sometimes blighted their previous stuff and written and straight-ahead pop album. Hurray! And so, they’ve been listening to ‘Brimful of Asha’ for opener ‘Let the Serpents Sleep’, they’ve put the power back into pop with the thrusting (steady!) ‘Everlasting Scream’, they’ve spooked us out with ‘The Creature’ - in which the drummer sounds like he‘s playing the door panel of an Austin Maxi,  they’ve written the most perfect guitar pop in ‘Palace of the Flames’, and they’ve written a modern shanty in ‘Visions of the Sea’. This is quite a stunning album - the sort you can play all day and annoy your neighbours with. The sort that really gets made by a band such as Elf Power, who usually rely on their ability to add a little bit of oddity to everything. This time, they’ve let themselves go - and the results are wonderful.