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  albums - august 2005

 

Glyn Bailey – Toys From Balsa
Toys From Balsa is intriguing. Some of it I enjoyed, some of it will ‘grow’. Its one of those albums that doesn’t instantly strike out but kind of ‘draws you in’ if not in subconscious way but in an appreciative way. Its experimental at times, has inspirational lyrics and sounds fresh for a male singer-song writer. Glyn Bailey vocals are very alike David Bowie (post Ziggy of course!). Toys From Balsa has some great tracks, some quite pleasing, some very comical, but none that are down-right awful. Anyone who names a track “Sorry (she went down on me but I thought about you)” gets my vote! Just listen to the lyrics on “The Plastic Bag Song (Facts)” and “Yellow Rage” and I defy you to be unimpressed. Comparisons? Well The Divine Comedy (tracks 1, 4, 8 & others) David Bowie (track 10, 12) The Doors (track 3, 8) a kind of combination of the lot. Glyn Bailey is more than your average singer-songwriter; he sounds accomplished and content in his musical direction and taste. It’s for all of those reasons that this album (in my opinion) is admirable, enjoyable and has that quality that makes you hear something different each time it is played.

Sarah McDonald


Additional Moog
Starting out as a one-man studio project way back in 1992, and judging by the info provided on their website a very prolific one at that, Additional Moog were only fleshed out into their current five-piece incarnation during 2004. Make no mistake folks, this here is a real labour of love. But is the music any good?

Offering up a somewhat generous 7 tracks for review, the Moog describe themselves as lo-fi alt country and take inspiration from such luminaries as Pavement, Wilco and the Silver Jews. Now, there are those who might scoff at the authenticity of a Midlands-based outfit trading in this brand of Americana (Gomez encountered similar problems, I recall) and singing about motels and dollar bills, but, frankly, I care not.

In fact, if I have any major gripe, it's that there is a surplus of mid-tempo material on this cd - the kind of stuff that makes you nod your head rather than jump up and down - but that's nothing a quick rummage through the back catalogue couldn't remedy. There's some lovely stuff here.

"Holy Jukebox" is a cracker of a pop tune, with mainman James Williams a dead ringer for Michael Stipe. The gorgeous "Harmonica Fuel", with its Paul Simon/Elliott Smith overtones, and wistful "The Slow Fade" are also well worthy of mention. All in all, a solid effort that hopefully should ensure some form of recognition won't take another ten years.

Will Columbine

www.additionalmoog.co.uk


The Cringe – Scratch The Surface
Unfortunately, this album only scratched my surface. It just didn’t ‘float my boat’ (as they say). For me it lacked the extra little bit of spice, that special ingredient that gives an album an edge. The accompanying ‘bumf’ states that The Cringe “…are the current decades answer to The Foo Fighters”. Though I’m sure this album will please some others, The Foo Fighters need not worry! Scratch The Surface is moodier, sounds inexperienced and is certainly not as commercial (not a bad thing mind you). The Cringe I imagine are a band to be best enjoyed live but for me it simply ‘drowned me out’ and made little impact to any frame of reference. “Burn” (track 2) is this albums greatest achievement so if they continue along this mid-tempo rock journey they may just improve musically. For now however, Scratch the surface just reminds me of being a teenager listening to The Smashing Pumpkins under the cover of darkness ….......

Sarah McDonald


The Posies – ‘Every Kind of Light’ (Rykodisc)
This is apparently the first studio album from The Posies in six years. Now I’m going to have to come clean and admit that I don’t know any of The Posies previous output, so I have absolutely no idea whether this measures up to their previous releases or whether this album is a return to form or otherwise. What I can say though is that if it is a return to form then they must have been pretty dismal in the first place. Oh it starts off promisingly enough, with the catchy orchestral pop of the opening track ‘It’s Great to Be Here Again!’. Very contagious and it sounds like a Bond theme, but in a good way! 

But then it all goes terribly wrong. Adult orientated rock is the only applicable phrase. It should appeal to people who buy compilations with titles along the lines of ‘Worlds Best Driving Songs’ or ‘Air Guitaring for Dads’. To their credit they’ve covered all the bases, a few ballads for the more sensitive souls, a number of rockier tracks for when one feels like letting ones hair down. The rockier tracks such as ‘Second Time Around’ and ‘All in a Days Works’ are especially awful, full of leaden rock clichés. I would recommend this album to REM or Stereophonic's fans. However for those interested in innovative, interesting or challenging music, avoid like the fucking plague. 

Michael Pearson


Her Name in Lights - Into the Light Again (Laughing Outlaw)
A completely different proposition to Laughing Outlaw's other offering from Sam Shinazzi this month, Her Name in Lights is mainly a vehicle for singer/songwriter Mary Wyer. She has the sugary kind of effortless voice not too far reminiscent of St Etienne's Sarah Cracknell.

Many of the songs are about failed relationships but while the lyrics and sentiment are poignant enough, the song writing treatment is kept nice and light, akin to The Throwing Muses at their happiest.

Production is crisp and atmospheric and each song is carefully crafted. Where it falls slightly short against the likes of The Throwing Muses is that Kristin Hersh could alter the tempo and mood of the music with her amazing voice alone. Wyer has a good voice but never gets out of first gear with it, result being the longer the album goes on, the more samey it sounds. But if you're going to sound samey, at least writing top songs is a good starting point and this makes a great summer album.

SB


The Openmouths - Enter... (Brainlove)
These potty mouthed little oiks kick off things off with an ode to lingering grand parents delaying due inheritance and quickly move on to starving their dog to death by forgetting to feed it while they were out clubbing. Not the stuff of Johnny Mathis this and probably just the thing that The Daily Mail would try to ban (or better still deport back to their own country so they can stop stealing our jobs etc). Which is what makes it all the better.

Nothing over 3 and a half minutes long so the disaffected youth don't get too bored and simple enough guitars so no-one gets bogged down in complicated melodies. Music with a sense of humour is a bit thin on the ground while everyone tries to out-cool themselves and get on the cover of the NME so this is a welcome break.

SB


Watchers - The dunes phase ep
right. i've read the press release courtesy of gern blandstein, i've armed myself with my "eye-spy book of whiteboy funk", and i'mchecking them off: 

complimentary handclaps            -           CHECK
..and tambourine                        -           CHECK
wonderfully exaggerated yelping  -           CHECK
HGV-like beats                           -           CHECK
spluttering false-start riffs           -           CHECK
self-affected breathy vocal          -           CHECK
COWBELL!                                 -           CHECK
contagious melodies                   -               ? 

oops. its a big miss kids, and it really is a shame because this record is so fearless in its intentions. watchers come close so often, and when the record begins with some lovely can-esque grooves and bursts into the refrain "set fire to the rooftops!" i am feeling particularly optimistic. unfortunately this is followed by another promising opening to "mono mano", the second track here, which again disappears off the radar at around the minute mark. by the time the fugazi'n'xtc shake-up of "badge said no" ends i am wondering if they just forgot to bring the second half of all the songs along with them - that is the only explanation i can dredge up for such an unfulfilled sense of party in my belly... 

it's often like the restrained second cousin of q and not u's "no kill no beep beep"; whereas the latter would jump out of a window holding a bottle of whisky and three bridesmaids at your wedding, "the dunes phase ep" would probably just drink a glass of champagne and fall asleep in a corner. it probably wouldn't even snore.

Sammie Cain


Toupé - Burgers (Hackpen Records)
3 people, 2 playing bass, 1 drums from the Deep South (that's Southampton). A concept LP of 78 minutes duration. Called Burgers. The sleeve is a menu, explaining all the different items. So far, so interesting, but are there any songs on here, is it any cop? I'm delighted to say the answer is positive. The first tune of note is the 7 minute antidote to all the "I lurve you" shite that has blocked up the charts for way too long now - it's called "Fuckin'", of course, and does exactly what it says on the tin. It's classy, funny and crucially is/has a tune. Further highlights include "Pork Rinds" and "Stinky", but more along the concept line is "Burgers", a spoken word Elvis "tribute". It's not just the aforementioned instruments though, we have guitar, violin, female backing vox and some comical use of the kazoo. These people clearly have too much time on their hands. Good. Closer "Chef's Special Twenty Minute Snack Track" is a collection of basically stupid live studio bits - country, polka/waltz, Welsh folk and a piano rendition of "Peepers" are put to the sword. In these days of blank copyists and soulless music careerists, it's refreshing to listen to an LP that doesn't grate and isn't afraid to take the piss out of itself and those around. You could do a lot worse that chucking some of your ill-gotten wages at this lot.

Dave Procter

(www.toupe.co.uk)


mek obaam - you and i
sheffield wednesday away kits. happy meals. mek obaam;
three things that belong firmly in the nineties. everything on this record is as detached as pouring milk into diesel, and all the detail, such as the few seconds of tame sprawling noise at the end of "goodnight, thank you" is about as pointless*. 

this is not a terrible record, its simply that the west coast references stalking mek obaam here are vastly superior. i can understand the appeal to make skeletal pop music, but i cannot understand the sterile and inert approach some people take to such a delicate task. the great craftsmen of pop songs over the decades - messrs wilson, black, malkmus et al - made difficult arrangements and structures sounds easy. on the other hand, "you and i" is a record that has managed to make simple concepts sound complicated. even when "while you're sleepin" comes close to being the sugary canter it promises to be, and "song for mothers" is only slightly off the mark in terms of being a nice little violent femmes-inspired romp, "you and i" is cluttered even though there is not all that much going on.

the plight that mek obaam has reminds me of all those poor mimicks of all those great bands (lightning bolt, anyone?) - he has neither the musical nor environmental influence that lend themselves to this kind of thing, and so in the end up it sounds painfully like an eastern european playing at being west coast. 

and so to all the rhymes that have been done hundreds of thousands of times, to the overpowering bass and every guitar break that lies so distant above everything else it sends me back to puberty, i can say this: if you are truly great you can make the most difficult ideas sound simple, but if you're anything less you can make the most simple ideas sound childish. 

* i do not own a cocktail shaker, or a strong stomach, so this may or may not be advisable.

Sammie Cain


Blackloud - Octave Drops (white label)
This is a collection of 4-track work from about 3 years or so back. There's a fairly standard theme running throughout - darkness, at least vocals wise. The bass is big, brutal and occasionally fuzzed up. The guitars remind me of Sisters of Mercy at times. There's much, much more involved though, I detect NIN, Aphex Twin, The Prodigy and the darker side of Soft Cell. There's great use of alternate panning and delayed backing vocals, giving an eery feeling, and then we get some Beck-ed up scuzz pop via Leeds' sadly demised Baby Food. Definitely interesting and worth checking out the website for more.

Dave Procter

(www.blackloud.com)


Rayne - Between Heaven and Earth (Halo)
What the hell is this? A cross between LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain? Drivel.

SB


 

Julien Neto – ‘Le Fumeur De Ciel’ (Type)
On first listen to Julien Neto’s debut it could be easy to brush over it with simple labels like ambient and dreamlike. Its not that these terms don’t apply through further listens, it’s just that that’s like saying that Byron was quite a nice writer, its not enough.

‘Le Fumeur de Ciel’ is, like its title, unmistakably French in tone. It evokes twilight nights in Paris, of melancholic men in doorways gently working their way through another pack of Galiases or noir lit bars with whispered conversations over an aperitif. It is a record that, dependant on the listeners’ mood, seems to shift in meaning. At times it may feel sinister or even unsettling whilst a repeat listen can bring forth a more comforting air as piano and strings merge and interlope with a more electronic side to the proceedings.

Julien Neto has created an album for dry summer evenings in partially lit rooms, a delicate thoughtful piece of music that somehow makes me wish I still smoked.

Luke Drozd


Junkplanet - Not If This Was The Last Planet On Earth (Brainlove Records)
A solo release from the eponymous John Brainlove, ex of The $hit. This CD contains 10 pieces, with total time less than 18 minutes. So what do we get? A varied, mish-mash of electro, punk and sample laden stutter "pop". Lack of experimentation is not on the cards here. Vocals are disaffected cockney, occasionally slipping into multi-layered choral. Suffice to say, before you've really got your head around 1 song, it's stopped and we're halfway through the next. Is it any good? Hard to judge. It's definitely varied and shows someone not afraid to plough his own furrow, but whether there's enough here to get a combine full of punters with him is not a question I can answer.

Dave Procter

(www.brainloverecords.com)


Mostly Autumn - Stories Over Still Water (Autumn)
Is this a joke? Like Buck Rogers, in suspended animation, music from another time? Epically produced with a female vocal that is incomprehensible as it spirals up the bands collective 7 arses. It takes 7 people to produce this din? Always check the artwork - alarm bells should have been ringing before this even disgraced my CD player.

SB


Clickits – ‘Express Gifts’ (Moteer)
Express Gifts is an album that can if you let it sort of sneak away from you. It seems like it begins at the edge of a very well trodden musical path, one of reflective introverted ambience that sort of breezes by, pleasant yet forgettable. This is a rash judgement however as what Clickits have really created is a very simple sounding album that grows in complexity as it slowly eases you along. By the time you hit the wooden rhythm track of ‘Lithophone’ its hard not to find something ultimately endearing lurking within. This is music for those in no rush, music to drift to perhaps and is somehow always vaguely reminiscent of a pack of well-trained crickets with an ear for music.

Luke Drozd


Deep Elm Records – ‘The New Crazy’ (Deep Elm)
“Deep Elm that’s an Emo label right?” Is what you may be shouting at your monitor. My response is simply you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes this is label that carved its name from the punk, emo and hardcore scene but over the years they have shown that it is basically a label built on a love of music and, especially shown by the recent ‘Indie Rock’ compilations that isn’t restricted by genre.

Well ‘The New Crazy’ is an album showcasing some of the gems that Deep Elm has coming up. Featuring tracks, new and old, from the storming Clair De Lune, a blistering piece of rock from Sounds Like Violence and a taste of what you can be treated to if you got off your arse and bought the Settlefish album like you should. We also get some more pared back beauties from the likes of Benton Falls and Surrounded and then as if that isn’t enough they’ve thrown in a couple of classics from the vaults courtesy of such luminaries as Appleseed Cast and Planes Mistaken For Stars.

Now I shan’t lie and say Deep Elm don’t put out music I don’t enjoy because they do, and some of it is represented here. However I defy anyone not to find one new band they love on this sampler. Hooray for Deep Elm!

Luke Drozd


David McCormack & The Polaroids - The Truth About Love (Laughing Outlaw)
Ahhh, that old  chestnut. The thing that a million songs has been written about before David McCormack et al. will reveal all. And apparently 'Love Does not Come Down from Above, It comes from a Can'. Aha! So there you go. But despite this emotional bombshell, there is something incredibly endearing about the ELO type of sound on the title track, full of strings and big choruses.

There's a few bum notes but with other titles like 'I'm Going to Execute Your Ex-Boyfriend' sounding like it's come straight from the set of a Tarantino film and the incredibly Frank Black-ish 'Who Could You Love', it soon becomes apparent that David McCormack & The Polaroids have no better idea about love than the rest of us left floundering around in life like a desperate cod in the Humber at low tide. And so the album is all the better for it I say.

SB


Gary Higgins – Red Hash (Drag City)
There’s nothing quite like a bit of music folk-lore and the ultimate example being the ‘lost’ album, your Smile’s et al. Well one more has been yanked from its musical grave if perhaps a slightly less well known one. Gary Higgins, with the help of the folks of Drag City, can finally give the worlds the release of his album ‘Red Hash’. It’s only been thirty-two years after all.

‘Red Hash’ is a folk album very much of its time. It is steeped in psychedelic paranoia and I imagine a smattering of drugs. It also starts in a somewhat unassuming manner and really failures to register above quite good. That is until you hit about half way in and the track ‘I Can’t Sleep At Night’. This is the albums turning point and one that seems to signal a general downward spiral toward life’s darker recesses, and quite frankly its all the better for it. Higgins can start to evoke comparisons of those junkie psych-folk brilliance of Love’s more laid back moments and at times just end up sounding as discordant and contemporary as many of those alt-folk musicians currently peddling their trade (especially on a track like the wonderfully weird and dirty ‘Down on the Farm).

Okay so there are moments of drug referencing and some lyrics that are a little dated and frankly a little cringe worthy but fans of the genre will ultimately bask in the aged melancholy of a generally enjoyable folk album.

LD


Sam Shinazzi - Stories You Wouldn't Believe (Laughing Outlaw)
Hailing from the beautiful city of Sydney you might be forgiven for thinking that Sam Shinazzi would be writing feelgood three minute ditties extolling the virtues of stubbies and sunshine. But this record comes from a much darker place as even a cursory inspection of the lyrics will demonstrate.

Playing an acoustic pared down version of melancholia, Shinazzi possesses a world weary voice that, for me, fails to animate the melodies enough to maintain any interest. In fact, I would go far as to say his voice is not world weary but just downright miserable and manages to sound miserable on even the more upbeat tracks. Sounding world weary is one thing but being able to mix it up would help keep things interesting. Still a good record for your introspective Leonard Cohen types.

SB


Pokett – ‘Crumble’ (Scientific Laboratories)
Pokett is essentially one man with a lot of helpful friends. That man is Stephane Garry and with help from his buddies he has created a sweet and gentle album that isn’t quite pop, nor folk nor Americana. It evokes comparisons especially on a track like ‘Marmalade’ to being somewhere between Clem Snide and Norfolk and Western. However Pokett for all its points of tender beauty has a slight way to go before perhaps reaching the level of song writing of these bands. ‘Crumble’ is certainly a slow burner and an album that you have to invest your listening time with but there still remains a scattering of moments that don’t quite ring true. That said this is still a record that deserves the attention of all those searching for an album that will lull and sooth them without ever feeling fey or false.

LD


Pit Er Pat – ‘Shakey’ (Thrill Jockey)
If ‘Shakey’, the latest offering from Chicago’s Pit Er Pat, is one thing it’s immediate. From the moment you slip that disk in you are aware of its presence in your life. Tellingly they started life as a backing band and this idea of solid rhythm is what ties the band and its music together and also allows it to loosen up and stray.

Let me explain, at the core there is the drums this grooving, pulsing heart beat. It is a sort of throbbing gel that holds it all in place. Then added to that we have a bass which can seem timid and safe and then discordant and strange. This is topped off with simple yet often unsettling keys and naive and thin vocals. That together shouldn’t work. The results should be disparate and annoying. The thing is they aren’t, it all seems to work perfectly. This seems to be because no matter what oddity may be trailing off on the surface within there is always a rooted rhythm at the centre to rope it all back in. 

Take a track like ‘Cake Peg’ a bizarre fairy tale that should probably be trying is compelling and chugging and seems to change pace continuously yet never feels disjointed. However I have to say one of the album highlights for me remains the only instrumental ‘Vultures Beware’ which feels like an evil fairground accompaniment or a big band gone off the rails.

Pit Er Pat are a band with a unique and strange blend of musical styles. Part prog, part psych-folk, part god knows what, they are on a musical journey that will stomp and rattle into your twisted little heart and make a warm capillary nest.

LD


Yellow Bentines - demo
When the music on the cd doesn't inspire much in the way of purple prose, one finds oneself turning more and more often to the factsheet. Such is the case with Yellow Bentines who, despite packing out venues in their native Glasgow, aren't really my cup of Earl Grey.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with their brand of piano-led, brass-augmented pop, none of the three tracks provided lodge themselves in the subconscious and adjectives such as "perky", "likeable" and "inoffensive" spring to mind. Think of Ben Folds Five lightly spanking Keane with a rubber plimsoll whilst The Divine Comedy look on...not a particularly arousing image, is it?

Tis a shame not to have better things to say when the band's website displays a depth of character that the music itself lacks, along with much humour (a fondness for Brass Eye in particular) and excellent artwork. My overall opinion is: competent.

www.yellowbentines.com

Will Columbine


Midwest – ‘Whatever You Bring We Sing’ (Homesleep)
Alt-country from Italy, it’s a phrase rarely uttered and lets face it not one that really excites. But more fool us because Midwest are one of the most interesting and entertaining bands of their genre for some time.

Midwest construct acoustic alt-country from a by-gone time full of honky-tonk piano, gentle fiddles and horn accompaniment. This is all then topped off with Matteo Gambacorta’s reedy yet compelling vocals, a bit like The Decemberists covering Townes Van Zandt. They do on occasion pick up the pace like on ‘We’re with the Madcap’ but even then its still a rather metered pomp as opposed to an all out blow out.

‘Whatever You Bring We Sing’ is the perfect record to accompany this sticky summer nights that have descended upon us. Put it on, turn up the volume, settle into the rocking chair and close your eyes and bask in its orchestral and plush beauty. This record will help make your summer special.

LD


Rebecca Zapen - Japanese Bathhouse (Bashert)
Oooh, we like this. Title track 'We Didn't Bother' exudes indifference in a soporific folky haze. And even better, it's about a love affair gone wrong with a Lego pirate!

Zapen may sound a few bolts short of a meccano set but from this individual outlook on life a string of unique songs has arisen. 'Smile' sounds like some 1930's picture house soundtrack and I swear it is the only example of a tap dancing break in the middle of a song that I have ever heard. The whole album exudes a nod to the past, deploying sea shanties, nursery ryhme xylophone and country fair accordion. Then just when you think you have finally got inside Zapen's head she throws out a sophisticated lounge bar number in the form of 'Dolores'.

Exquisite mandolin and other finger-picked strings are the mainstay accompaniment to Zapen's dreamy voice. Both beguiling and arresting at will, the vocals lubricate the more challenging changes in key and left field style. A real find.

SB


Fugo –‘Aie’ (Engineer Records)
Post-hardcore in the vein of Fugazi / Quicksand, with elements of indie, is the order of the day on this release. Not really a great deal more that can be said about it to be honest. Competent, but uninspired. A few tracks in my interest levels were beginning to flag, and by the end of the last track I was thoroughly sick of the whole affair. This may have been due to the vocals, which at points sound like a terrifying hybrid of Billy Corgan / that chap from Muse whose name escapes me. They are particularly grating on tracks 5 and 6, ‘U’ and ‘O’. Which is a shame, because although the music isn’t earth shattering there are occasional interesting jazzy flourishes. But then it’s back to more of the same. Dull. 

Michael Pearson


Large Mound – ‘Go Forth and Amplify’ (Scientific Laboratories)
One of the finest band monikers I’ve come across in quite some time, it makes me inclined to like this release. Song titles such as ‘Metal’s Back’ and ‘Thairockin’ indicate Large Mound’s sound, ROCK! Not any of this modern rock nonsense though, 80’s style stadium rock all the way. I can’t work out whether they are experimenting with irony, or this is completely sincere. Either way it’s all fairly entertaining and quite good for a giggle. The songs are catchy and rock in a particularly naff fashion. One for Def Leopard fans.

Michael Pearson


The Levellers - Truth and Lies (Eagle)
Hooray for the Levellers! Long after you might have thought their legendary tour bus would have been struck by a fatal breakdown in the services just outside of Scunthorpe on the M180 they are still at it. Although a large part of my youth was spent slagging them off (it's hard to consider camping and dancing around with fiddles when you're shivering your balls off in the freezing cold of Newcastle) I have to admit that a little wave of nostalgia washed over me when this little packet dropped through the letterbox. I also learned that all that touring and selling records has been pretty profitable and that the band have set up a multimedia centre in Brighton for young hopefuls to record in. So, buoyed by such socialist leanings, to the music.

Well, I guess it's the same as it always was: full of fiddling and catchy choruses. But stop me and delouse my dreadlocks, maybe I've mellowed in my old age as I actually quite liked it. So pretence, no big guitar solos, no posturing. Just the sort of good time music you might expect to get in a nice little Irish country pub. But a kazoo? Come on.

I'm off to listen to some Black Flag - I need to toughen up.

SB


Latterman – ‘no matter where we go..!’ (Deep Elm)
Punk rock! Spitting! Spiky hair! Other confrontational things of that nature! Does anyone find punk shocking or confrontational anymore? Completely fucking redundant to my mind.  But anyway I digress. This release on Deep Elm, usually associated with emotional hardcore and the like, is very much punk rock. Melodic punk hardcore to be more exact, kind of akin to Hot Water Music or a heavier version of Alkaline Trio. Lots of shout along choruses, which are alarmingly contagious. The tracks ‘an ode to jon contra’ and ‘my bedroom is like for artists’ are particularly catchy. This sort of music isn’t really to my taste, and to be fair to Latterman this is a very good example of the genre. The most interesting track in my opinion is the instrumental ‘i wish branca was here’, presumably a reference to Glenn Branca? This track retains Latterman’s punk sound, but sways into post-rock territory. The rest of the tracks are simply shout along punk hardcore, fine if you like that sort of thing. But I don’t.

Michael Pearson


Tom Fuller - Chasing an Illusion (Red Cap)
Sounds lie Fuller was brought up on a diet of open roads, greasy diners and a substantial stash of Chris Rea and ELO records. What starts of as a tricksy finger picked folk number, 'Back Again' mutates into some kind of operatic rock that Jeff Lynne would be proud of. So, and unusually succinctly for me, i guess we have the crux of the matter. If you like that kind of country infused 70's rock then you will be quids in. If not, then you may find 'Chasing an Illusion' is barren ground. There's a bit of a nod to Radiohead in the guitar riff to 'Dare to Love' but generally the album reeks of big production and an oft repeated big build up to crashing final chorus formula. I reckon my Dad would like it though and it's his birthday soon...

SB


Orange Juice –‘The Glasgow School’. (Domino)
This collection from Glasgow’s Orange Juice is made up of their early 80’s single releases on Postcard records and a number of songs from the 1992 compilation ‘Ostrich Churchyard’. Oh and an unreleased Peel session track is thrown in for good measure. Orange Juice were pioneers of the fey indie / pop sound in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Whether this is anything to be proud of is debatable. Tracks 1 – 9 on this CD are the early Postcard singles, and they have not dated particularly well. The quality of the recording on these tracks is dismal, especially on ‘Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Olympics’, and the tracks themselves are frankly dull. Interesting as a historical document, not much fun to listen to. 

The remainder of the CD is taken up with tracks taken from the earlier collection ‘Ostrich Churchyard’. These tracks are of a far higher quality, particularly the Smiths-esque ‘Satellite City’ and the wistful country tinged ‘Consolation Prize’. Well worth checking out for fans of Belle and Sebastian or the Smiths. But if you’ve already got ‘Ostrich Churchyard’, then the Postcard singles don’t make this a worthwhile purchase.

Michael Pearson


Volunteers - Know Yourself
Being more a fan of post-hardcore rock than the genre itself (although I do rate Black Flag if that counts for anything), I wasn't expecting to like this, the efforts of an "old school hardcore supergroup" no less. However, from the opening seconds of "Fighting" right through to "epic" (almost three minutes long!) closer "What the Fuck?", it was difficult not to get caught up in by the sheer energy being pumped out of the speakers. Blink and you'll miss the gaps between songs - we're talking fifteen tracks in just over twenty minutes.

Volunteers rail against globalisation and corporate bullshit ("Language List"), bad self-image ("Know Yourself") and the evils of smoking dope at gigs ("Wrong Smoke"), although, with the lyrics coming at you like a hail of bullets, I had to refer to the inlay card to be absolutely sure. If nothing else, this is skateboarding music with a conscience which left me in the mood to fire up a quick game of Grand Theft Auto and do some serious damage. Apparently the late, great John Peel was a fan and recommendations don't come any higher than that. I bet they're shit-hot live.

www.volunteers.tk

Will Columbine